Probiotics are well-known to support gastrointestinal microbial balance, gut motility, gut function, and immune health. Research indicates that probiotics may play a role in other areas of health, including the support of certain aspects of metabolic function. A recently published study investigated the potential supportive role of probiotics in post-gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition associated with abnormal glucose metabolism that presents itself first during pregnancy. GDM may affect nutrient levels and fetal development. It may also influence birth parent’s health with an increased future risk of progression to type 2 diabetes.
Research indicates that changes in the composition of the gut microbiome in those with GDM may have an association with alterations in metabolism, which may continue into the postpartum period. Supplementation with probiotics has been shown to help support certain parameters of glucose metabolism, including fasting blood glucose (FBG), and also those parameters related to the inflammatory response, such as high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP).
Hasain and colleagues recently published a randomized controlled trial involving 132 participants who were between 4 and 8 weeks postpartum with a recent history of GDM. The treatment arm consisted of 60 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) divided among six probiotic strains administered daily for 12 weeks. The strains included Lactobacillus acidophilus BCMC® 12130, L. casei subsp. BCMC® 12313, L. lactis BCMC® 12451, Bifidobacterium bifidum BCMC® 02290, B. infantis BCMC® 02129, and B. longum BCMC® 02120. Biomarkers were assessed at baseline and after the treatment period, which included FBG, hemoglobin A1c, hs-CRP, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and parameters related to the gut microbiome.
Study results indicated a statistically significant improvement in FBG in the treatment group when compared with the baseline and compared to a placebo. The placebo group experienced significant elevations in FBG during the same period of time. Improvements in HbA1c and hs-CRP were also statistically significant in the treatment group when compared to a placebo. Phylum-level changes to gut microbial compositions were also reported, specifically in Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Self-reported outcomes by study participants in the treatment arm included improvements in mood and reductions in both constipation and bloating.
The authors concluded that supplementation with probiotics may support certain aspects of metabolic health in this population, although more studies are needed before clinical conclusions can be made. Study strengths included relatively high patient compliance rates and a relatively high amount of probiotic strains. Study limitations included the expanded eligibility criteria involving the recruitment of post-GDM participants with glucose intolerance alongside post-GDM individuals who were believed to be at higher risk, according to research, for persistent postpartum type 2 diabetes, but without symptoms of glucose intolerance.
More clinical research is needed. However, probiotics may play a supportive role for the inflammatory response and metabolic health. Probiotics may also help support immune health and gut microbial balance.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT