Study unlocks dual action of probiotic BB-12’s weight management effects

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The new study found that the probiotic BB-12 may prevent the transition from a healthy to an obese microbiome     Image © pepifoto / Getty Images
The new study found that the probiotic BB-12 may prevent the transition from a healthy to an obese microbiome Image © pepifoto / Getty Images

Related tags Probiotics BB-12 Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis Bifidobacterium animalis Weight management Gut microbiota microbiota microbiome

The potential anti-obesity effects of an extensively studied probiotic may occur via two distinct pathways, says a new study from China that deepens our understanding of the strain’s efficacy.

Data published in Frontiers in Nutrition​ indicated that adding Bifidobacterium animalis​ subsp. lactis​ BB-12 to a high-fat diet prevented the transition from a healthy microbiome to an obese microbiome. Subsequently. BB-12 promoted the growth of beneficial bacteria and decreased the growth of harmful bacteria in the guts of lab animals.

“Our results provided further evidence of the role of BB-12 in maintaining gut microbiota and in ameliorating obesity through gut microbiota balance,” ​wrote scientists from Hebei Agricultural University and Jiangnan University.

Gut microbiota and obesity

The link between the gut microbiota and obesity was first reported in 2006 by Jeffrey Gordon and his group at Washington University in St. Louis, who found that microbial populations in the gut are different between obese and lean people, and that when the obese people lost weight their microflora reverted back to that observed in a lean person. This suggested that obesity has a microbial component (Nature​, Vol. 444, pp. 1022-1023, 1027-1031​).

A 2013 paper in Science​ (Vol. 341, Issue 6150), also led by Prof Gordon, found that transplanting gut bacteria from obese humans into germ-free mice leads to greater weight gain and fat accumulation than mice that were given bacteria from the guts of lean humans.  

The findings showed that weight and fat gain is influenced by communities of microbes in the gut and their effect on the physical and metabolic traits of the host, leading to metabolic changes in the rodents that are associated with obesity in humans.

This has led many research groups to explore if probiotics may help manage weight. A probiotic is defined as a “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”​ – FAO/WHO.

The new study expands our understanding of the potential anti-obesity effects of BB-12, which appears to operate in two phases. BB-12 is produced and marketed by Denmark-based Chr Hansen. The company was not involved in the study and did not provide funding.

Chr Hansen applauds the study

Commenting on the new data, Gregory Leyer, PhD, Sr. Director – Scientific Affairs, Chr. Hansen, Human Health, told NutraIngredients-USA: “Chr. Hansen applauds the continued mechanistic studies on important health outcomes, and healthy weight management is one of the many areas where we feel the microbiome plays a critical role. 

“The study by Mao et al. provides additional insight into the human benefits of ​B. animalis subsp. ​lactis, BB-12 by studying diet-induced microbiome changes using a human-microbiota obesity rat model,” ​said Dr Leyer.

“BB-12 was demonstrated to have a microbiota stabilization effect, followed by enriching the beneficial bacteria as determined later in the intervention timeline.  There are obvious translation difficulties when applying results from rodent studies to human outcomes, however these mechanistic results add to the body of knowledge on the benefits of BB-12 across a variety of health outcomes and life-stages.”

Dr Leyer added that the area of healthy weight management is of high interest to Chr. Hansen. Indeed, other strains from the company have been researched for this end-point, with data from human clinical studies showing that its Lactobacillus gasseri​ BNR17 strain may contribute to maintenance of a healthy weight, a healthy body mass index and support healthy levels of abdominal fat (Jung et al. Korean J Fam Med​ 2013​, Kim et al. J Med Food​ 2018​).

Study details

The new study used lab rats inoculated with human microbiota and divided them into three groups. The first group received a normal chow diet (control), the other two groups were fed a high-fat diet with or without BB-12 for eight weeks. The probiotic dose was 90 million colony-forming units (CFU) per kilogram of body weight.

The data indicated that consumption of a high fat diet perturbed the gut microbiota of the rats, leading to low levels of Prevotella​ and increased levels of Akkermansia, Bacteroides, Blautia​, and Clostridium​. Such changes have “negative implications on host phenotype, as an example, this microbial consortia lead to an increase in body weight”​, said the researchers.

However, adding BB-12 to the diet protected the animals from these negative shifts in the first three weeks of the study, and the BB-12 animals had lower body weights compared to the high fat diet-only animals.

Then, between weeks four and eight, the researchers recorded that the BB-12 animals showed an enrichment of short-chain fatty acids-producing bacteria such as Eubacterium​ and Parabacteroides. ​Levels of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium​ were also observed.

“The results revealed that BB-12 against obesity by regulating gut microbiota in two phases,” ​they stated. “After a short-term intervention, BB-12 supplementation suppressed the transition from the healthy to obesity state by protecting ​Prevotella-dominant enterotype, whereas after a long-term intervention, BB-12 ameliorates obesity by enriching beneficial bacteria in the gut.”

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
10 January 2022, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.811619
“Bifidobacterium animalis subsp​. lactis BB-12 Has Effect Against Obesity by Regulating Gut Microbiota in Two Phases in Human Microbiota-Associated Rats”
Authors: K. Mao et al

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