Probiotics Protect Children and Pregnant Women against Heavy Metal Poisoning

First Posted: Oct 07, 2014 04:41 AM EDT

Probiotics if taken regularly have the potential to protect children and pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning, a new study says.

Probiotics are the live microorganisms- the naturally occurring bacteria in the gut- that are known to provide health benefits. They are available in food sources like yogurt and other dietary supplements. As more people are looking for natural or non-drug ways to maintain their health, products containing probiotics have flooded the market in recent years.

In a latest study, a research team from the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics suggests including yogurt containing probiotic bacteria in one's diet as it successfully protects children and pregnant women against heavy metal poisoning.

The researchers created and distributed a special yogurt with Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria and studied the outcomes in a control group. They looked at how the microbes offered protection against environmental health damage in poor regions of the world. During the lab research it was noticed that the bacteria L. rhamnosus had a tendency to bind with toxic heavy metals. 

Based on this, the team led by Dr. Gregor Reid hypothesized that regular intake of this probiotic strain prevents the metals from being absorbed from the diet. A significant protective effect of the probiotic was found against mercury and arsenic in pregnant women. This is important as a reduction in these compounds lowers the risk of negative developmental effects in the fetus and newborns.

Working in collaboration with the Western Heads East organization, the researcher have established a network of community of kitchens in Mwanza, Tanznia to produce probiotic yogurt for the local population.

Mwanza is located on the shores of Lake Victoria and is nown to be heavily polluted with pesticides and toxic metals that include mercury. They produced a new type of yogurt that has L.rhamnosus, which was distributed among pregnant women and children.

The finding was published his week in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.  

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