Gut microbiota and obesity: New study shows promising results with probiotic and prebiotic intervention

In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers assessed the effect of a low-calorie, sufficient fiber regimen combined with probiotic supplements and physical activity on health, body composition, and physique in obese Egyptian females.

​​​​​​​Study: Effect of weight loss program using prebiotics and probiotics on body composition, physique, and metabolic products: longitudinal intervention study. Image Credit: FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock.com​​​​​​​Study: Effect of weight loss program using prebiotics and probiotics on body composition, physique, and metabolic products: longitudinal intervention study. Image Credit: FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock.com

Background

Obesity affects all socioeconomic groups, ages, ethnicities, and genders worldwide. The gut microbiota is essential for overall health, promoting metabolism, vitamin production, immune system development, and pathogen colonization.

Dietary intervention can modify the variety and abundance of microbiota species in the human gut, possibly treating gut bacteria-related illnesses such as obesity.

An imbalance in gut microbiota composition may lead to overweight and obesity, and achieving a balanced microbiotic condition might be a viable treatment. The Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio (F/B) is most likely an indicator of obesity.

About the study

In the present longitudinal study, researchers examined the impact of a hypocaloric, sufficient fiber diet, physical activity, and probiotic supplements on the health, body physique, and composition of obese Egyptian females.

The study included 58 obese female Egyptians (mean age 47 years, mean BMI 38 kg/m2) who followed a weight reduction eating regimen (prebiotic), which included a low-carbohydrate, adequate-fiber, adequate-protein diet with reduced calorie consumption.

Participants were also given daily probiotic supplements, such as 100 g of yogurt containing 108 strains of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus acidophilus per gram, and were told to practice aerobic workouts regularly for three months.

The diets were high in beans, whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, eggs, cottage cheese, meat, fish, and skinless chicken.

They supplied 49% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in calories, 58% and 42% in fat and carbohydrate, and 88% and 95% in protein and fiber, respectively.

The researchers excluded individuals with autoimmune, metabolic, or gastrointestinal problems and those consuming medications such as antibiotics.

They assessed height, body weight (WT), waist (WC) and hip circumferences (HC), and the thickness of skin folds at four locations (biceps skin fold (BSF), triceps skin fold (TSF), abdomen, and subscapular) using the "International Biological Program" recommendations.

They calculated the body mass index (BMI) and examined body composition [fat mass (FM), fat-free mass (FFM), and basal metabolic rate].

The researchers collected blood samples from participants to test for leptin and short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and hepatic enzymes such as Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) using clinical chemistry analyzers.

To determine the effects of the weight loss program's eating plan, physical activity, and probiotic supplement on the gut microbiota of study participants, the researchers collected fecal samples before and after the intervention, performed gene sequence analysis, and compared individual gut microbiota variations.

The percentage of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes was determined using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Pearson's correlation analyses investigated correlations between gut microbiota, body composition, and metabolic products.

Results

The researchers found statistically significant improvements in anthropometry, body composition characteristics [WT, BMI, WC, HC, waist/height ratio (WHTR), thickness of abdominal and subscapular skin folds, central adiposity, fat percent, FM, FFM, BMR, and water content], and obesity-associated biological markers (AST, ALT, and leptin) after follow-up, as they were decreased.

The intervention dramatically raised the relative abundance of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and Bacteroidetes while decreasing the relative abundance of Firmicutes and the F/B ratio.

Post-intervention, the most lowered parameters were leptin hormone (91%), AST (47%), thickness of abdominal (38%) and subscapular folds (31%), central adiposity (29%), ALT (25%), TSF (21%), and peripheral adiposity indices (14%).

Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, and Bacteroidetes microbiota abundances rose by 8.20%, 4.30%, and 0.60%, respectively, although Firmicutes (1.50%) and F/B ratio (3.20%) dropped.

The results showed that the significantly negative relationships between the F/B ratio and body composition parameters [WC, WT, waist/hip ratio (WHR), waist/height ratio (WHTR), subscapular skin fold, FM, central obesity index, water content, SCFA, and BMR] were constant.

Following the intervention, the ratio showed strong negative relationships with HC, BMI, leptin, FM, and AST. Post-intervention, no significant negative associations existed between the F/B ratio and the BSF, TSF, and peripheral adiposity index.

Conclusion

The study showed that a probiotic-rich diet combined with a low-calorie fiber program can enhance body composition and weight reduction while also correcting blood leptin and AST levels.

Regular exercise and probiotic supplements were also beneficial in lowering weight and regulating obesity-related elevated levels.

The intervention dramatically lowered weight, body composition, and laboratory parameters, as well as obesity indices, which were related to a lower F/B ratio and Firmicutes levels.

Probiotics can help you lose weight by reducing inflammation, improving the intestinal mucosal barrier, and regulating intestinal enzyme activity, as well as immunological and neuroendocrine function.

Journal reference:
Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Written by

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is an oral and maxillofacial physician and radiologist based in Pune, India. Her academic background is in Oral Medicine and Radiology. She has extensive experience in research and evidence-based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

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