The achievements in combating the increasing trend of overweight and obesity have thus far been inadequate. The recently discovered instrumental role of the gut microbiota in host metabolism may offer a novel target in the prevention and management of obesity.
To evaluate the impact of perinatal probiotic intervention on childhood growth patterns and the development of overweight during a 10-year follow-up.
Altogether 159 women were randomized and double-blinded to receive probiotics (1 × 10(10) colony-forming units of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, ATCC 53103) or placebo 4 weeks before expected delivery; the intervention extending for 6 months postnatally. Anthropometric measurements of the children were taken at the ages of 3, 6, 12 and 24 months and at 4, 7 and 10 years in 113 (72%) children.
The excessive weight gain was detected to be two-parted; the initial phase of excessive weight gain initiating during fetal period and continuing until 24-48 months of age and a second phase of excessive weight gain starting after the age of 24-48 months. The perinatal probiotic intervention appeared to moderate the initial phase of excessive weight gain, especially among children who later became overweight, but not the second phase of excessive weight gain, the impact being most pronounced at the age of 4 years (P=0.063, analysis of variance for repeated measures). The effect of intervention was also shown as a tendency to reduce the birth-weight-adjusted mean body mass index at the age of 4 years (P=0.080, analysis of covariance).
Early gut microbiota modulation with probiotics may modify the growth pattern of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first years of life. This novel observation calls for further epidemiological and clinical trials, with precise data on early growth patterns and on confounding factors influencing weight development.