05/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Reduce Childhood Obesity With Probiotics

First Lady Michelle Obama is on a mission to help reduce the growing number of overweight and obese children in the United States. Among the "shocking statistics" driving her in this initiative: "One in three kids are obese in this nation," she told Matt Lauer on the Today Show last month. "And the numbers go up when you're talking about the African-American and Hispanic communities. The most shocking sort of reality that really hits you is that, because the young generation is on track for the first time in this nation's history of being less healthy, having a shorter life span than their parents."

The First Lady's Let's Move initiative includes four primary goals:

-Ensuring schools offer more healthful food.
-Increasing the availability of healthy food in all neighborhoods.
-Helping children get regular physical activity.
-Giving parents information and support to help their children eat properly.

But new fresh research suggests a possible fifth approach:


According to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, pregnant women who consume probiotic supplements may help prevent their children from becoming obese later in life. In the study, 256 women in their first trimester of pregnancy either received the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis or did not. Researchers found that probiotic intervention reduced the frequency of gestational diabetes, which happens when the body is unable to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. The result: high blood glucose levels for the mother during pregnancy, and the risk of delivering an infant with macrosomia (aka an overweight baby.) According to the American Diabetes Association, "babies with macrosomia face health problems of their own, including damage to their shoulders during birth. Because of the extra insulin made by the baby's pancreas, newborns may have very low blood glucose levels at birth and are also at higher risk for breathing problems. Babies with excess insulin become children who are at risk for obesity and adults who are at risk for type 2 diabetes."

Although the study didn't specifically include kefir, the popular yogurt-like drink is brimming with probiotics. Many moms actually crave kefir or other dairy products while pregnant, and with good reason: Not only is it delicious, but it's full of other ingredients that can help a mom-to-be stay healthy, like calcium, protein and Vitamin D. Maybe Whole Foods needs to start an online Baby Registry program, so new moms and dads can register for all the kefir and probiotic supplements they need to keep their fridge stocked and their offspring healthy. Watch out, Crate & Barrel!

Read more about Lifeway kefir, which contains 10 strains of healthy bacteria, at