The findings, which were published in the European Journal of Nutrition, revealed that when breastfeeding women take probiotics, it helps “alter gene expression by decreasing DNA methylation” of the 37 gene promoters linked to weight gain in mothers (68 in the infants).
DNA methylation modifies gene expression through the addition of methyl, a molecule, to DNA. This alters the activity level of the gene’s function via a mechanism called “transcription.”
Professor Kirsi Laitinen from the University of Turku, the study’s lead researcher, wrote: “Three of the known risk genes were affected specifically in the mothers and five in the children. The DNA methylation of the promoter of the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene, the strongest known genetic risk factor for obesity, was decreased in the women in response to the intake of the probiotics. The FTO is associated with body mass index (BMI), obesity risk, and type 2 diabetes in various studies.
For the study, the researchers observed 15 Finnish women who were pregnant through a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Seven participants selected at random received a probiotic capsule with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactuis Bb12 daily. Meanwhile, the remaining eight women were given placebo capsules.
The researchers used blood samples to determine the DNA methylation status of 623 obesity-related and 433 weight-gain related gene promoters. The samples they used came from the pregnant women.
The researchers took samples before the women received the supplements and at least six to 12 months after they gave birth. The scientists took samples from the infants at the same time. A tool dubbed ingenuity pathway was used to study the DNA methylation status. (Related: Pregnant women can reduce their risk of post-partum depression by half with probiotics.)
Professor Laitinen and the team also took note of the effects of the probiotic supplements on the DNA methylation of levels linked to genes that are responsible for the metabolic and immunological processes. The researchers posit that taking probiotics during pregnancy may offer other benefits aside from preventing obesity. They added that further studies must be done to determine the worth of probiotics as a gene therapy tool.
They shared that gathering ribonucleic acid (RNA) was necessary because this helped confirm that DNA methylation was”translated into variations in gene expression.” It is also possible that DNA methylation in tissues could vary from those that occur among blood cells.
Since the trial size was relatively small, it would be better to try and replicate the results in a bigger group, noted the researchers. They added, “Probiotics’ clinical effects are known to be dependent on which specific species and strains of probiotics are being used.”
The researchers believe that certain probiotic strains could have different effects on DNA methylation. They believe that the current findings are promising, and they are eager to see if the results can be used to further studies concerning the “primary tissues, in other populations, and with other probiotic strains.”
Foods rich in prebiotics
Try to eat more of foods that are rich in probiotics to improve your gut health:
- Apples – This fruit also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
- Barley – This grain into is full of the nutrient selenium, which improves thyroid function.
- Cacao – A vital source of fiber, raw cacao is rich in magnesium.
- Oats – Oats can also lower cholesterol levels and control blood sugar levels.
- Jicama – A crunchy white vegetable, jicama is a rich source of vitamin C, and it is low in calories.
- Leeks – Leeks help break down the fats in your system.
- Raw garlic – While raw garlic isn’t always easy to consume, it is full of prebiotics.
You can read more articles about infant health and how to prevent childhood obesity while pregnant at WomensHealth.news.