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Friendly Bugs May Help Reduce Obesity in Children

Probiotics are having their heyday in the realm of children’s health: past research has associated them with reduced risks of respiratory infections and milk allergies, among other things. Now, more current research has found that synbiotics—probiotics combined with prebiotics—may increase weight loss and improve markers of cardiovascular health in children who are obese. For the study, which was published in the journal Beneficial Microbes, researchers followed 77 children with obesity for one month. All of the children were put on a reduced calorie diet and participated in a physical activity program. In addition, half of the children were randomly selected to receive a daily synbiotic supplement, while the other half did not receive the supplement. Through measuring the children’s weight, body-mass index, cholesterol levels, and other markers of cardiovascular health at the beginning and end of the study, researchers found that:

  • On average, the children who took the synbiotics lost more weight than the children who didn't take the synbiotics. They also had greater reductions in body-mass index and triceps skin-fold thickness (a measurement used to estimate body fat).
  • Children in the synbiotics group had greater decreases in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and markers of oxidative stress. These findings suggest that they experienced greater overall improvement in their cardiovascular health.

While these findings are interesting, the study was relatively short and didn't use a placebo control group. Therefore, more research is needed to understand if synbiotics could someday be used to help children with obesity to lose weight. In the meantime, if you’d like to boost your child’s intake of synbiotics, look no further than your grocery store aisles. Fermented and cultured foods such as kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, and unpasteurized sauerkraut contain probiotics. Vegetables such as garlic, onion, and green peas, fruits such as bananas, nectarines, watermelon, and grapefruit, and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, are all sources of prebiotic fibers. When it comes to synbiotic supplements, check with your pediatrician if you’re interested in finding one that’s right for your child.

Source: Beneficial Microbes

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