A pilot study suggests that probiotics may help protect children and pregnant women against heavy metal exposure. Funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and published in mBio, the open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, the study included 44 school-aged children and 60 pregnant women in Tanzania who had a higher risk for heavy metal exposure. Study participants were divided into two groups: one group received yogurt containing the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 (10 billion colony-forming units per 250 grams of yogurt), while the other group received either whole milk or no intervention. Researchers investigated the effects of the yogurt on the children for 25 days and investigated the effects on the women during their last two trimesters until birth. Here’s what they discovered:
Consuming yogurt significantly protected the pregnant women against further blood level increases of mercury and arsenic.
Children receiving the yogurt also experienced lower toxin levels, although the number of children and duration of the study did not allow for a statistically significant finding.
While the results are preliminary, this area of research has great potential due to the affordability and accessibility of probiotics for people in some developing countries.