Is Fibre the Secret to Tackling Obesity?
Jul 26 2017
Childhood obesity is described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century’. It is a global epidemic that is growing at an alarming rate — and without changes to the way we eat and exercise, the crisis could be leading to a population that suffers from all manner of obesity-related health issues in the future.
Scientists and health experts are continually searching for ways to reduce excess weight in children. It is well known that excess weight in childhood is a risk factor for obesity in later life and the impact on health that goes with obesity. A recent study has assessed the effect of prebiotics in overweight and obese children — and the research suggests probiotics may offer a way to reduce the problem of excess weight gain in some children.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Many people are probably aware of probiotics — the live bacteria that we take in yogurts or other diary produce. We take them to try and replenish the bacteria in our guts after we’ve been on antibiotics.
Prebiotics are an entirely different animal. A prebiotic is a type of plant fibre that has the property of providing nourishment to the good bacteria — whatever the type — that inhabit our gut or colon. So, while a probiotic introduces good bacteria — hopefully the right one for you — a prebiotic acts by feeding whatever good bacteria are already there.
Prebiotics aren’t destroyed in the body unlike probiotics. And, prebiotics have been shown to have many health benefits including reducing digestive disorders and they can even play a role in helping to alleviate mental health issues — like anxiety and stress — by lowering cortisol levels. But can they help in the fight against obesity?
Fibre fights obesity?
In a recent study published in the journal Gastroenterology, a team of scientists from the University of Calgary set out to find if a prebiotic in the form of a powdered fibre supplement could aid in the fight against obesity.
Their study involved overweight children and a control group of children taking a prebiotic fibre or a placebo for 16 weeks. The results were analysed using a variety of techniques including high performance liquid chromatography — a technique commonly used to determine the health benefits of natural products as described in the article, High Efficiency Post Column Derivatisations of Natural Products using Reaction Flow High Performance Liquid Chromatography.
They found that the children had a decrease in body fat and fat around their abdomen. There was also changes in the levels of triglycerides in their blood by almost 19%. The study was only on a small scale, but hopefully the team have taken a small step in the fight against obesity in latter life.
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