Overweight and obesity currently constitute a major threat to human well-being. Almost half of the female population are currently overweight. Pregnant overweight women are at risk of gestational diabetes affecting the health of the mother and the child, in both the short and long term. Notwithstanding the extensive scientific interest centred on the problem, research efforts have thus far been unable to devise preventive strategies. Recent scientific advances point to a gut microbiota dysbiosis, with ensuing low-grade inflammation as a contributing element, in obesity and its comorbidities. Such findings would suggest a role for specific probiotics in the search for preventive and therapeutic adjunct applications in gestational diabetes. The aim of the present paper was to critically review recent demonstrations of the role of intestinal microbes in immune and metabolic regulation, which could be exploited in nutritional management of pregnant women by probiotic bacteria. By modulating specific target functions, probiotic dietary intervention may exert clinical effects beyond the nutritional impact of food. As this approach in pregnancy is new, an overview of the role of gut microbiota in shaping host metabolism, together with the definition of probiotics are presented, and finally, specific targets and potential mechanisms for probiotics in pregnancy are discussed. Pregnancy appears to be the most critical stage for interventions aiming to reduce the risk of non-communicable disease in future generations, beyond the immediate dangers attributable to the health of the mother, labour and the neonate. Specific probiotic interventions during pregnancy provide an opportunity, therefore, to promote the health not only of the mother but also of the child.
Keywords: gestational diabetes; gut microbiota; microbiome; obesity; overweight; pregnancy; probiotics.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.