Probiotics and Childhood Obesity

Bacteria May Be Making Your Child Fat
According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last three decades. In 1980, the percent of obese children between the ages of six and eleven rose from 7% to almost 20%. Adolescents aged 12-19 years who are obese went from 5% to 18% during this time. Clearly childhood obesity has become a serious epidemic in this country and I am sure this is not the first you’ve heard about it.

Obesity in children can lead to serious problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Sleep disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • And bullying

There are many factors to consider when determining the cause of childhood obesity including getting less exercise and having a higher caloric intake. As always, check your child’s diet and see if there are some changes to be made. Make sure your child gets outside and gets proper exercise. Some parents are baffled, because they follow this advice and their children still struggle with weight problems long after making healthy changes in their lifestyles. There may be another underlying cause lurking in your child’s digestive tract.

Gut Bugs and Obesity
One recent theory on obesity in children claims that bacteria may be the problem. New research suggests that children suffering from obesity may have differing proportions of certain bacteria

and microbes in the stomach. Preliminary studies of 26 obese and 27 non-obese children between the ages of 6 to 16 who completed a dietary and physical activity survey, showed a consistently differing proportion of gut bacteria in obese children,

“The ratio of Bacteroides fragilis to Bacteroides vulgatus was 3:1 in overweight and obese children, while this ratio was reversed in normal weight children.”

Stool samples were analyzed to assess the presence of different types of gut bacteria and overweight children had different proportions of various gut bacteria than children maintaining a normal weight. The study also ruled out this consistently differing bacteria proportions association with physical activity. Liene Bervoets, of the University of Hasselt, and his colleagues explained to the European Congress on Obesity,

“Our results suggest that low concentrations of Bacteroides fragilis group bacteria, together with a low protein intake during childhood, could lead to the development of obesity.”

Though the study has yet to be peer reviewed, its preliminary findings suggest that manipulating the microbiotic composition in the gut through diet, such as probiotics, may aid in preventing obesity. Probiotics are ingredients in food or probiotic supplements that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the body’s digestive tract. When children are exposed to antibiotic use, the healthy bacteria in the digestive system is destroyed along with the illness-causing bacteria. These probiotics are necessary to properly digest foods and balance the body’s microflora. The differing proportions of gut microorganisms in obese children may explain the correlation found in the results of a study published by the International Journal of Obesity finding a correlation between antibiotic exposure before 6 months and an increased body mass later in childhood. Could this be because the use of antibiotics destroys the healthy flora in the body? Research continues, but evidence strongly supports this theory.

Kate Hunter enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, crafting, making natural products, and following up on politics and the latest health food news. After changing her major from art to biology to English, she finally obtained a B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. Kate is a published author both online and in print and has owned, operated, and published a literary journal. She is a mother of three, speaks sarcasm, some Spanish, but mostly English and spends her time baking, taking pictures, canning, growing and drying herbs, reading, selling natural products and homemade crafts in her Etsy store HomemadeByKate, and checking food labels of course.

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