Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Probiotic yogurt could help protect against heavy metal poisoning


Research shows probiotic strain prevents uptake of mercury and arsenic in children and pregnant women in Tanzania

New research shows probiotic yogurt can reduce the uptake of certain heavy metals and environmental toxins by up to 78% in pregnant women. Led by Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute's Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotic Research, this study provides the first clinical evidence that a probiotic yogurt can be used to reduce the deadly health risks associated with mercury and arsenic.

Environmental toxins like mercury and arsenic are commonly found in drinking water and food products, especially fish. These contaminants are particularly high in areas where mining and agriculture are prevalent, and in the developing world where regulations for industrial activities are limited or poorly enforced.

Even at low levels, chronic exposure to heavy metals has been linked to certain cancers and delayed neurological and cognitive development in children. Yet in Canada, 15% of reproductive-aged women possess mercury levels that pose a high risk for neurodevelopmental abnormalities in their children.

Research suggests some naturally occurring bacteria in the body can influence toxic metal levels. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 is a probiotic strain that has already been used safely and effectively in yogurt in Canada with positive immune benefits. Previous lab research at Lawson showed it can also bind to heavy metals, but clinical research was needed to confirm whether this mechanism would prevent the body from absorbing them.

In the study, Dr. Gregor Reid, a Scientist at Lawson and Western University, and Jordan Bisanz and Megan Enos, trainees at Lawson and graduate students at Western, assessed 44 school-aged children and 60 pregnant women living in Mwanza, Tanzania near Lake Victoria. This area is known for having particularly high environmental pollution.

Tanzania is also home to a network of community yogurt kitchens previously set up with the scientists to provide a locally-sourced, low-cost source of nutrition. The goal of the study was to assess existing metal levels in the environment and participants' bodies, map their natural bacteria to identify any potential links to metal absorption, and determine whether the probiotic-supplemented yogurt could influence metal absorption.

The scientists found mercury and lead levels were up to seven times higher than what is typically found in Canadian children. Silver cyprinids, small fish consumed widely in the region, were found to contain especially high levels of mercury and arsenic. DNA sequencing identified two bacteria present in children with the highest concentrations of heavy metals, suggesting the presence of these bacteria may be linked to metal absorption.

After consuming the probiotic-supplemented yogurt, the children showed positive, but not statistically effective, results. The pregnant women showed more dramatic outcomes. The probiotic yogurt protected them from further uptake of mercury by up to 36% and arsenic by up to 78%.

"The findings are exciting for many reasons," says Dr. Reid, senior author on the publication. "First, they show a simple fermented food, easily made by resource disadvantaged communities, can provide benefits in addition to nutrition and immunity. Second, the results are relevant for many parts of the world, including Canada, where exposure to these toxins occurs daily. Finally, it confirms more attention needs to be paid to these toxins, especially in children and pregnant women."

"Seeing the children, you would never think they were walking around with such high levels of toxins," says Bisanz, the first author on the paper. "I hate to think of the consequences for them as they age. The children and pregnant women all loved the yogurt. If we could only scale up these yogurt kitchen concepts, the impact on quality of life could be massive."


This study was funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The study is published today in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, available here:

Lawson Health Research Institute. As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care London, and working in partnership with Western University, Lawson Health Research Institute is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world.

For more information, please contact:

Sonya Gilpin
Communications Consultant
Lawson Health Research Institute
519-685-8500 ext. 75852

Sonya Gilpin | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>