Probiotics may endow rodents with "mouse swagger".
Original source: Scientific American May 4, 2012
By Elie Dolgin
Their goal was to understand how a probiotic diet affects rates of obesity and
its related compli?ca?tions, including cancer. But "the most entertaining
aspects of all this were things we didn't anticipate," Erdman says.
First, the scientists noticed that the yogurt-eating mice were incredibly shiny.
Using both traditional histology techniques and cosmetic rating scales, the
researchers showed that these animals had 10 times the active follicle density
of other mice, resulting in luxuriantly silky fur.
Then the researchers spotted something particular about the males: they
projected their testes outward, which endowed them with a certain "mouse
swagger," Erdman says. On measuring the males, they found that the testicles of
the yogurt consumers were about 5 percent heavier than those of mice fed typical
diets alone and around 15 percent heavier than those of junk-eating males.
More important, that masculinity pays off. In mating experiments, yogurt-eating
males inseminated their partners faster and produced more offspring than control
mice. Conversely, females that ate the yogurt diets gave birth to larger litters
and weaned those pups with greater success. Reflecting on their unpublished
results, Erdman and Alm think that the probiotic microbes in the yogurt help to
make the animals leaner and healthier, which indirectly improves sexual
The findings could have implications for human fertility. In ongoing work, a
team led by Harvard nutritional epidemiologist Jorge Chavarro has looked at the
association between yogurt intake and semen quality in men. "So far our
preliminary findings are consistent with what they see in the mice," Chavarro
This article was published in print as "Mice That Eat Yogurt Have Larger