Early prebiotic fibre may protect against obesity: Rat study

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Consumption of prebiotic fibre early in life could offer some protection from obesity later in life, if they results of a rat study hold true for humans.

Previous research has indicated that early diet could play some role in susceptibility to obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. Such investigation is of value to the food industry in the light of efforts to combat obesity – and to offer foods that deliver optimum health and nutrition during the all-important childhood years.

The study involved litters culled to 10 pups, of which the mother was given ad libitum access to a control diet throughout gestation. At 21 days the pups were weaned and six litters were placed on three experimental diets: a control diet, a high prebiotic fibre diet, and a high protein diet.

The rats stayed on these diets until they were 14 weeks of age, at which point they were transferred to a high fat/high sucrose diet for 6 weeks, with 45 per cent of energy coming from fat and 40 per cent from sucrose.

Throughout all stages of the experiment food and water were available ad libidum, but food intake was measured daily for a week every two weeks, with each food cup weighed to the nearest 0.1g. Body weight was measured every week.

At the end of the final feeding stage, final body weight was measured and body composition was determined under anaesthetic using an x-ray technique for small animals.

In addition, an oral glucose tolerance test was conducted and blood was analysed for satiety hormones and tissues.

In male rats fed the high the high fibre diet, weight gain was attenuated through to the end of the study. In the females, there were early reductions in body weight that moderated until the final two weeks, during which they weighed less than the females on the high protein diet.

In both males and females, final body weight was higher in the high protein group than in the high fibre group. The high protein rats also had higher energy intake, higher plasma glucose and higher leptin.

The male rats on the high protein diet tended to have higher hepatic triglyceride content than the control-fed or high fibre rats.

The high fibre rats had higher lean mass and lower fat mass than the high protein rats, and higher plasma amylin compared to the control rats.

The researchers concluded: “These data suggest that while a long term diet high in protein predisposed to an obese phenotype when rats are given a high energy diet in adulthood, consumption of a high fibre diet during growth may provide some protection.”


Nutrition & Metabolism 2010,7:77
DOI: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-77
Consumption of diets high in prebiotic fiber or protein during growth influences the response to a high fat and sucrose diet in adulthood in rats
Authors: Maurer, A., Eller, L., Hallam, M., Taylor, K., Reimer, R.

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