Researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington and the University of Auckland, have found that a ‘home-grown’ naturally occurring probiotic reduces the risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and lowers fasting blood sugar.

The study, funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, was published today in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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

“Using the current New Zealand definition for gestational diabetes, 6.5 per cent of the women had diabetes in the placebo group, versus 2.1 per cent in the probiotic group. This is a 68 per cent reduction,” says study leader Professor Julian Crane from the University of Otago, Wellington,

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

Fasting blood glucose was also significantly lower amongst 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 that the next steps will be to investigate whether this probiotic can reduce the now increasingly common risk of developing diabetes in the population generally.

“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.

The paper, ‘Early pregnancy probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 may reduce the prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus: a randomized controlled trial’, is available here.

For further information contact:

Professor Julian Crane
Department of Medicine
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel: + 64 (0)4 918 5258
Mob: + 64 (0)274 519 725

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