Probiotics may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes

05 April 2017
Pregnant woman

A new study has found that a ‘home-grown’ naturally occurring probiotic reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and lowers fasting blood sugar.

The joint study by University of Otago, Wellington, and University of Auckland researchers, was published this week in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001) is produced by Fonterra and is used to make fermented milk products such as yoghurt.

It was given in capsule form to 194 women from early pregnancy, while 200 women received a placebo. Gestational diabetes was assessed at 24-30 weeks gestation.

The results showed that 2.1% of women in the probiotic group developed gestational diabetes compared with 6.5 per cent of the women in the placebo group.

Study leader, Professor Juilan Crane says that amounts to a 68 per cent reduction.

“We found that the protective effects were stronger among older women and were stronger among women who had previously had gestational diabetes,” he says.

Fasting blood glucose was also significantly lower among women taking the probiotic compared to placebo.

“This is an exciting result suggesting that this probiotic may be interacting with the normal gut bacteria in some way to reduce glucose levels in pregnancy,” he says.

The researchers have previously shown that this same probiotic has effects on the immune system and reduces eczema by 50 per cent in infancy.

Professor Crane says the next step will be to investigate whether this probiotic can reduce the now increasingly common risk in the population of developing diabetes.

“We have recently received funding from a partnership fund from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Ministry of Health and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge to explore the use of this probiotic combined with a prebiotic to see if we can prevent the progression of pre-diabetes amongst adults at risk,” Professor Crane says.