Prebiotics increase beneficial bacteria for pregnant women

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An international team of researchers conducted a double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of women who were given galacto-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides (GOS and FOS), ingested daily from <21 weeks’ gestation to six months’ post-partum. GOS and FOS are soluble fibers known for maintaining a healthy gut ecosystem by promoting the growth of commensal bacteria such as Bifidobacterium.

In this study, beneficial Bifidobacteria​ were significantly more abundant in the prebiotic group, both during and after pregnancy.

“Improving maternal gut health in pregnancy and lactation is a potential strategy to improve immune and metabolic health in offspring and curtail the rising rates of inflammatory diseases linked to alterations in gut microbiota,” the researchers wrote.

Study details

The participants were placed in one of two groups: One group received 14.2 g per day of prebiotic powder (GOS and FOS) and the other received a placebo powder consisting of 8.7 g per day of maltodextrin. The scientists collected stool samples several times from 74 mother–infant pairs. The researchers assessed the fecal microbiota of both mother and infants on the analysis of bacterial 16S rRNA gene (V4 region) sequences and short chain fatty acid (SCFA) concentrations in stool.

The researchers noted significant differences in the maternal microbiota at baseline and during 28-weeks’ or 36-weeks’ gestation in the prebiotic supplemented women. Additionally, infant microbial beta-diversity significantly differed between prebiotic and placebo groups at 12-months of age. Supplementation increased the abundance of commensal Bifidobacteria​ in the maternal microbiota and reduced the abundance of  Negativicutes in both maternal and infant microbiota. There were also changes in SCFA concentrations with maternal prebiotics supplementation, including significant differences in acetic acid concentration between intervention and control groups from 20 to 28-weeks’ gestation.

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