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: http://mbio.asm.org/content/5/5/e01580-14
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. http://www.lawsonresearch.com
For more information, please contact:
Sonya Gilpin | Eurek Alert!
Loss of identity in immune cells explained
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität München
Progress in the treatment of aggressive brain tumors
18.02.2019 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
The so-called Abelian sandpile model has been studied by scientists for more than 30 years to better understand a physical phenomenon called self-organized...
Physicists from the University of Basel have developed a new method to examine the elasticity and binding properties of DNA molecules on a surface at extremely low temperatures. With a combination of cryo-force spectroscopy and computer simulations, they were able to show that DNA molecules behave like a chain of small coil springs. The researchers reported their findings in Nature Communications.
DNA is not only a popular research topic because it contains the blueprint for life – it can also be used to produce tiny components for technical applications.
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
18.02.2019 | Interdisciplinary Research
18.02.2019 | Process Engineering
18.02.2019 | Studies and Analyses