Prebiotics may help fight childhood obesity

New research suggests that eating a daily prebiotic may help curb kids’ appetites, and keep them at a healthy weight.

Three times as many American kids and adolescents are obese today than were just one generation ago. Seventeen percent are obese, according to the CDC. A recent trial found that prebiotic fiber may be one way to help keep kids at a healthy weight.

Researchers at the University of Calgary investigated whether prebiotic fiber would have a similar appetite-regulating effect on children that it does on adults, according to a release from Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. They studied 42 children with BMIs above the 85th percentile. Each child randomly received a mixture of either a prebiotic fiber or a placebo (maltodextrin, a polysaccharidte) in powdered form, mixed with water. The kids drank the mixture 30 minutes before dinner.

At week zero and week 16, researchers collected measurements including a blood sample and subjective scales the kids used to rate their appetite. At the start and the end of the study, the kids were taken to a breakfast buffet and set loose. Before and after eating, the children rated their appetite levels and the researchers weighed their food. The prebiotic fiber group consumed 100 calories less at the final buffet and experienced more feelings of fullness. They also rated their satiety levels before the meal higher than the maltodextrin group.

“These findings are promising, showing that intake of prebiotic fiber could cause a reduction in energy intake and body weight,” Raylene Reimer, PhD, RD, faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, said in the release. “It’s one more tool to use in the obesity epidemic. As a dietary strategy it should be in the toolbox. Of course, we still have to address all food factors in a child’s life. But this type of small, incremental change can make a positive impact on their health.”

Researchers have been giving prebiotics and probiotics more attention in the realm of children’s health. So has the mainstream media. A recent Huffington Post article discusses possible links between the bugs and kids’ learning.

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