NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women who take probiotic supplements starting in the first trimester are less likely to develop central obesity after they've given birth, according to a new study.
Central obesity was defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher or a waist circumference greater than 80 centimeters, about 31-1/2 inches.
At 1 year after giving birth, 25 percent of women given probiotics along with dietary counseling had central obesity based on that definition, compared with 43 percent of women given diet advice alone.
The findings were reported Thursday at the European Congress on Obesity being held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
"This is the first study showing that probiotics-supplemented diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding influences the adiposity of women over the 12-month postpartum period," Kirsi Laitinen, from the University of Turku, Finland, told Reuters Health.
The results stem from a study of 256 pregnant women who were given either probiotic capsules plus dietary advice, or placebo capsules plus dietary advice, or placebo capsules and no dietary advice. The probiotic capsules, which contained Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, were continued for up to 6 months after delivery until the women had stopped exclusive breastfeeding.
The percentages of women with central obesity at 1 year were 25 percent, 43 percent, and 40 percent in the probiotic, dietary advice-only, and no-probiotic/advice groups, respectively. The corresponding average body fat percentages were 28 percent, 29 percent, and 30 percent.
Laitinen noted that one limitation of the study was "the lack of baseline measurement of waist circumference, which was not possible to conduct in pregnant women."
Modification of normal bacterial in the intestines probiotics "together with a balanced diet may offer a reasonably economic, practical, safe and potentially successful method to be used with other lifestyle-related factors in controlling obesity," the researcher said -- while acknowledging that further studies are needed to verify these findings.