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Probiotics’ liver double play

New research helps explain the mechanism through which probiotics reduce liver fat accumulation.

The pumpkin spice of the supps and functional food world, probiotics are popping up in everything. And the growing pile of research supporting their health-promoting powers ensures that the microbes will endure long beyond the time Starbuck’s and others swap their giant vat of pumpkin spice for peppermint. While public acceptance of bugs’ benefits grows, much of the mechanics behind how probiotics actually do their magic in our bodies remains a mystery. A recent study begins to unravel how one strain does its thing in the liver.

A study published online in Food & Function, and noted by Nicole Cutler on (A Natural Wellness publication), examined how probiotics reduce fat accumulation in the liver. They examined the effects of a probiotic called NCU116, a Lactobacillus plantarum, common in many supps, on a group of rats fed a high fat diet that induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The NCU appeared to restore the function and oxidative stress, decrease the accumulation of fat and reduce endotoxin and pro-inflammatory cytokines (tiny proteins tied to immunity). But how?

Researchers believe the microbes actually impede the manufacture of fat, or downregulate lipogenesis. But that’s not all! The little guys also encourage the breakdown of fat that’s already there, or upregulate lipolysis.

More research is needed for a greater understanding of how and why probiotics reduce fat from accumulating in our livers, but in the meantime, writes Cutler, “Based on its dual action in mitigating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, supplementing with a probiotic containing Lactobacillus plantarum could be a valuable secret weapon against the development or progression of fat accumulation in the liver.”

If a drug was created with these same powers, she adds, it would be one of the top-selling medications.

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