Research | Healthy Lactic Acid Gut Bacteria & Obesity Control

The very word bacteria makes Americans run for an anti-bacterial product to kill it.

When the topic is gut bacteria, Caroline Karlsson, a researcher in food hygeine at Lund University in Sweden, knows gut bacteria are not only necessary to staying healthy but they may well prevent obesity.

Karlsson reports two major pieces of research on obesity.

Lactic Acid Bacteria Prevent Obesity in Mice

“Rats who were given this specific lactic acid bacterium from their time in the uterus up to adult age put on significantly less weight than other rats. Both groups ate the same amount of high-energy food,” explains Caroline Karlsson, a researcher in food hygiene at Lund University.

The connection between inflammation and obesity is generally accepted health science. Karlsson believes her research indicates that controlling positively the lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL19, is the key to controlling obesity.

Besides the two groups of rats getting the same high calorie diet — except for the lactic acid enrichment — Karlsson had a third group of rats on the identical diet, with a new variable. These rats were given the inflammation-causing Escherichia coli bacteria in their drinking water, causing them to be even fatter. 

Lactobacilli in Babies’ Guts

In a separate study, Caroline Karlsson studied the first feces of 79 children born vaginally. Because the fetus lives in a sterile environment, it has no micro-organisms in its intestines. However, during birth the baby swallows the lactobacilli that are naturally present in the mother’s vagina.

Karlsson found that babies with high birth weight had more inflammation-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, in their intestines than babies of normal weight.

Lactic Acid Bacteria-Rich Foods

Fermentation is key to the creation of lactic acid bacteria foods like cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, cottage cheese, sour cream and cultured butter. In some fermented dairy products, additional bacteria, referred to as secondary microflora, are added to produce carbon dioxide, which influences the flavor and alters the texture of the final product.

Sausage is one of the oldest processed meat products, existing in ancient Egypt, among the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. Fermented vegetables are common in many Asian diets.

Reading about lactic acid bacteria, one realizes that olives are a key ‘fermented’ food with these additional health benefits. Most of the research on the health benefits of olive oil is focused on the anti-inflammatory properties of extra virgin oil due to its polyphenols’ antioxidant powers.  What about the lactic acid effect?

As a semi-informed foodie, it’s impossible not to read this list of foods and consider the ‘French Paradox’ diet. The focus has been on the health benefits of red wine, but there may be many more health benefits at work in these foods that help maintain healthy gut bacteria in humans and perhaps a slim waistline besides.  Anne