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Raylene Reimer Research
BMO Financial Group Endowed Research Fund in Health Living

Calgary researchers have discovered an easy, affordable and non-invasive intervention that can help break the cycle of childhood obesity.

Thanks to community support, Raylene Reimer, PhD, RD, and her team have been able to examine the impact of prebiotic fibre on kids who are overweight or obese.

The children in the study, aged seven to 12, were either given a dietary supplement of prebiotic – ogliofructose-encriched inulin – or a placebo over the course of four months.

Following the 16-week trial, kids who had taken the fibre supplements experienced a decrease in body fat as well as the fat around their abdomen, which leads to a reduced risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Specifically, a dangerous fat called triglyceride was reduced by 19 percent in participants’ blood. Researchers also found that it’s possible to alter the profile of gut bacteria.

WHAT'S PREBIOTIC FIBRE?

Prebiotics are a healthy, non-digestable food ingredient. They are essentially fertilizer for good bacteria that stimulate its growth in the gut. They are found naturally in some foods, such as asparagus, garlic, onions, artichokes, bananas and whole wheat.

Meanwhile, the children who did not receive prebiotic fibre gained weight rapidly – nearly triple the normal rate for their age and gender groups.

“To me, what is so meaningful about this study is you can stop this trajectory of continuing to gain more and more weight,” says Reimer, a scientist with the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the University of Calgary. “Being overweight in childhood tends to persist into teenage years, then into adulthood. This study, literally, allowed these kids to meet what would be considered normal growth rates for their age.”

Reimer also finds the results particularly exciting because she believes prebiotics could be an inexpensive, non-invasive solution for children who are overweight or obese. The findings of this study could inform a larger clinical trial to potentially prove how gut bacteria in children can be modified with diet, says Reimer.

“We have also recently shown that prebiotic supplement can suppress appetite, which is one part of helping manage weight,” she says.

“Since we know that intestinal bacteria can influence what happens in the brain, we will continue to study how appetite and other functions in the brain are changed by diet and particularly fibre.”

Reimer encourages people who are interested in the effects of prebiotic fibre to talk with their pharmacist or family doctor.

The exciting results of the study were recently published in the journal, Gastroenterology.

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