Probiotic BL-11 Found to ‘Significantly’ Increase Height in PWS Children

Patricia Inacio PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio PhD |

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Probiotic BL-11

Treatment with the probiotic supplement BL-11 was found to significantly increase height in children with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) — a new finding that researchers say has “vital implications for early treatment in PWS.”

The probiotic supplement also lessened the symptoms of the rare genetic disease among the children after 12 weeks (about three months) of treatment, and enhanced the diversity of their gut bacteria, the new study reports.

The scientists said BL-11 led to a reduction in the amounts of several bacterial strains linked in previous studies with obesity and obesity-associated inflammation. While further research is needed, the findings suggest the possibility of using probiotic supplements for “potentially inducing a reduction of obesity in such [PWS patient] populations.”

The study, “The Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on Anthropometric Growth and Gut Microbiota Composition in Patients With Prader-Willi Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blinded Placebo-Controlled Trial,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

PWS is characterized by feeding problems that manifest early in life, which can lead to abnormal eating, obesity, and mental health issues if left untreated.

Previous research has suggested that the gut microbiota — the natural, beneficial community of microbes living in the gut — can influence the risk of obesity in people with PWS. Moreover, the gut microbiota of people with normal weight is typically more diverse than that of overweight and obese individuals, studies have shown.

In studies involving obese mice, the administration of probiotics — live microorganisms believed to maintain and boost a “healthy” gut microbiota — was shown to help control the animals’ weight. This finding was later reproduced in a clinical trial with overweight adults.

In particular, several strains of the gut bacteria Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis (B. lactis) have been shown to promote a healthy gut.

Now, a team of researchers in the U.S. and China evaluated the effects of supplements with a specific B. lactis strain (BL-11) probiotic in patients with PWS.

A total of 68 PWS patients with a mean age of 4.2 years (age range of 11 months to 16 years) were randomly assigned to receive the BL-11 probiotic or a placebo. Among the children, 33 were given BL-11 and 35 received the placebo, given as a sachet diluted in water twice a day, for 12 weeks (about three months).

The study’s goals included changes in the patients’ weight and height, as well as in their behavior (psychological measurements), at the start (baseline) of treatment and after six and 12 weeks.

Another goal was the composition of the gut microbiome at the study’s start and after the same time periods.

The results showed that, between week six and 12, there was a significantly greater increase in height among PWS patients given the BL-11 probiotics compared with those receiving the placebo. Specifically, there was a mean difference of 2.58 cm — just over 1 inch — for those in the probiotics group in comparison to children in the placebo group.

Moreover, the disease symptoms were lessened in the probiotics group after 12 weeks, as assessed through the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale, when compared with the start of treatment.

No significant changes were observed in weight or in psychological measures between both groups over time.

BL-11 probiotics administration also led to a slight but significant increase in the diversity of the microbiota strains present in the gut when compared with the placebo group after six weeks of treatment.

Furthermore, BL-11 administration for 12 weeks led to a reduction in the abundance of several bacterial strains — including, for example, Ruminococcaceae UCG-003 — that have been linked with obesity and obesity-associated inflammation. Meanwhile, BL-11 promoted an increase in bacterial strains deemed beneficial to gut health, such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Prevotella 9.

Overall, the “trial showed that treatment with probiotic B. Lactis strain (BL-11) for 12 weeks significantly increased height, a novel finding with vital implications for early treatment in PWS,” the researchers wrote, adding that “probiotic treatment may improve overall psychological clinical symptoms, as suggested by CGI-I results.”

According to the team, “the results suggest that B. lactis is a viable probiotic candidate for facilitating the improvement in obesity-related gut microbiome [de-regulation] in individuals with PWS, thereby potentially inducing a reduction of obesity in such populations,” they wrote.

However, the researchers emphasized that further studies are needed to “investigate the mechanism and efficacy of BL-11 probiotics treatment in PWS.”