A Probiotic for Obesity?

People with obesity-related disorders may benefit from supplements of a common gut bacterium, a small pilot study suggests.

Researchers tested the bacterium, Akkermansia muciniphila, in 32 men and women who met the criteria for metabolic syndrome by having at least three of five conditions: high fasting blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL (the “good” cholesterol) or excessive waist circumference.

A. muciniphila is a normal inhabitant of the human gut that is less prevalent in people with metabolic syndrome. In a three-month trial, volunteers were randomized to one of three groups: daily tablets containing live bacteria, pasteurized bacteria or a placebo.

Compared with the placebo group, those who took pasteurized A. muciniphila had significantly improved insulin sensitivity and total cholesterol, and decreases in several blood markers of inflammation and liver dysfunction. They also had decreased body weight, fat mass and waist circumference, though those differences were not statistically significant.

The live bacteria were largely ineffective. The study is in Nature Medicine.

“I hope people will not see this as a miracle cure,” said the senior author, Patrice D. Cani, a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels. “The finding is significant, but it has to be confirmed in a larger cohort. Keep in mind that the first treatment for cardiometabolic disorders is healthy diet and sufficient exercise.”

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