Specific synbiotics in early life protect against diet-induced obesity in adult mice

Mona Mischke, Tulika Arora, Sebastian Tims, Eefje Engels, Nina Sommer, Kees van Limpt, Annemarie Baars, Raish Oozeer, Annemarie Oosting, Fredrik Bäckhed, Jan Knol*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: The metabolic state of human adults is associated with their gut microbiome. The symbiosis between host and microbiome is initiated at birth, and early life microbiome perturbation can disturb health throughout life. Here, we determined how beneficial microbiome interventions in early life affect metabolic health in adulthood. Methods: Postnatal diets were supplemented with either prebiotics (scGOS/lcFOS) or synbiotics (scGOS/lcFOS with Bifidobacterium breve M-16V) until post-natal (PN) day 42 in a well-established rodent model for nutritional programming. Mice were subsequently challenged with a high-fat Western-style diet (WSD) for 8 weeks. Body weight and composition were monitored, as was gut microbiota composition at PN21, 42 and 98. Markers of glucose homeostasis, lipid metabolism and host transcriptomics of 6 target tissues were determined in adulthood (PN98). Results: Early life synbiotics protected mice against WSD-induced excessive fat accumulation throughout life, replicable in 2 independent European animal facilities. Adult insulin sensitivity and dyslipidaemia were improved and most pronounced changes in gene expression were observed in the ileum. We observed subtle changes in faecal microbiota composition, both in early life and in adulthood, including increased abundance of Bifidobacterium. Microbiota transplantation using samples collected from synbiotics-supplemented adolescent mice at PN42 to age-matched germ-free recipients did not transfer the beneficial phenotype, indicating that synbiotics-modified microbiota at PN42 is not sufficient to transfer long-lasting protection of metabolic health status. Conclusion: Together, these findings show the potential and importance of timing of synbiotic interventions in early life during crucial microbiota development as a preventive measure to lower the risk of obesity and improve metabolic health throughout life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1408-1418
JournalDiabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
Issue number6
Early online date20 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Body composition
  • Dietary intervention
  • Insulin resistance
  • Liver
  • Mouse model
  • Obesity therapy

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