DuPont de Nemours Inc.

06/01/2019 | Press release | Archived content

Meet the little-known microbe that’s an obesity breakthrough

For more than a decade, researchers would arrive every day at DuPont's Health and Nutrition Sciences labs in Kantvik, Finland, a half hour west of Helsinki on the country's southern coast, and explore the mystery that was B420™.That was the nickname for this unassuming tubular microbe, a strain of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, one of many they were studying to understand the relationship between probiotics, or 'good' bacteria, and the body.

In this early discovery phase, scientists conducted countless cell culture studies. The goal, says Johanna Maukonen, Global Health and Nutrition Science Lead at DuPont, was 'to see how different probiotics improve epithelial integrity, the key function that prevents gut bacteria from entering the blood stream and causing inflammation. We thought that a probiotic that helped improve the barrier function of the gastrointestinal tract could theoretically have some impact on metabolic health.'

It was some theory. Fast forward to 2017, when DuPont launched HOWARU® Shape, a probiotic formulation that reduces weight gain in obese and overweight people and contains, yes, the now heroic B420™.

It's a much-needed breakthrough considering that the obesity rate worldwide has nearly tripled since the mid-1970s. Last year, in the United States alone, every state reported an adult obesity rate higher than 20%. The stakes are dire: The rise in obesity has boosted rates of weight-related health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, straining health-care systems. Obesity-related health care costs the U.S. more than $200 billion a year, according to some estimates.

It's no secret that diet and exercise are a critical part of the solution, but that knowledge hasn't slowed the trend. B420™, however, could be a landmark development in the fight against weight gain.