probiotics and weight loss

Probiotics for Weight Loss: Do They Work?

When most people encounter the word bacteria, they immediately think about the terrible diseases and infections that these microorganisms cause. While that may be true for some strains, most bacteria actually help keep your gut healthy, and, as new evidence suggests, they may even promote weight loss.

The gut is home to about 100 trillion microorganisms from more than 500 species. These microorganisms aid digestion, keep harmful pathogens in check, and impact nutrient absorption.

These microorganisms that are beneficial to your health are known as probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and/or yeast that naturally live in your body and help it stay healthy and functional. Probiotics are now the center of attention in the quest for an effective weight loss solution. Some people believe that taking supplements with live beneficial microorganisms may help shed some weight; after all, they naturally live in the gut. But can probiotics help you lose weight?

Does Taking Probiotics Help With Weight Loss?

We can’t definitively say that probiotics will help you shed extra weight at the moment, as most research available focuses on how they can improve gut health and improve digestive issues. However, mounting evidence suggests that probiotics may help.

The most compelling evidence on the link between probiotics and weight loss is a 2013 study [1] that investigated the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of the most widely used probiotic strains, on weight loss.

The researchers followed 125 obese men and women throughout a 24-week study period. Half the participants were given the probiotic and the other half a placebo and subjected to 12 weeks of moderate energy restriction followed by 12 weeks of weight maintenance. The study found that the women in the probiotic group lost significantly more weight than those given placebo after the first 12 weeks and continued losing weight even during the weight maintenance period.

Another study [2] found that the gut microbiota in people with obesity was different from people with average weight. To confirm the findings, the researchers implanted the microbiota from twins, one who was obese and the other average weight, into germ-free mice. There was no weight change in the mice that received gut bacteria from an average-weight person, but the mice that received microbiota from an obese person gained weight. From these findings, it seems possible that probiotics may have a hand in regulating weight.

This effect has also been observed in patients who received fecal transplants from obese donors. In one case report [3] , a patient who underwent a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) gained more than 40 pounds in the months following the procedure. But does this mean probiotic supplements can help with weight loss?

The jury is still out on this issue, but more research is underway. That said, one new study [4] has found evidence that gut microbiomes can influence your ability to lose weight. This suggests probiotics could help build better gut bacteria and positively impact your weight loss journey! Here's how probiotics may benefit weight loss.

Benefits Of Probiotics For Weight Loss

1. Probiotics May Help Improve Energy And Glucose Metabolism By Promoting Bacterial Diversity In The Gut

One study [5] states that obesity results from prolonged energy intake and use disparity. So, would improving metabolism help lose weight? While metabolism is linked to weight, it's not always the cause of gaining excess weight.

However, some studies [6] have linked certain strains of probiotics to improved energy and glucose metabolisms. So, taking probiotics to promote bacterial diversity may help you utilize energy from foods better and store less fats.

2. Probiotics May Help Improve Gut Health

Gut health is essential to weight loss or gain. If your digestive tract isn’t functioning normally, you may be susceptible to abnormal weight gain or inability to lose weight. By taking probiotics, you can help balance gut microbes which could aid in weight loss.

A weaker gut lining is usually linked to people with obesity. So anything that can help rebuild the intestinal barrier may help promote weight loss.

3. Probiotics May Help Balance Gut Microbes

Several studies [7] suggest that the imbalance of gut microbes may contribute to obesity. Gut bacteria are a vital part of the ecosystem regulating digestion, hunger, metabolism, etc. Your microbiome needs diversity to function optimally as different microorganisms perform distinct roles in the ecosystem.

If your intestinal environment is imbalanced, you have fewer beneficial bacteria or reduced diversity, which may lead to dysbiosis. This imbalance may be why you may find yourself gaining weight more quickly.

Research studies [8] suggest that probiotics may help prevent and rebalance the gut microbiota ecosystem. This suggests if an imbalanced gut ecosystem was the cause of your weight problem, using probiotics may help stop gaining, and you can focus on losing extra weight.

4. Some Probiotics May Help Prevent Weight Gain

Preventing excessive weight gain in the first place may be the best way to avoid obesity, and new evidence suggests some probiotics may help you do that.

In a 2015 clinical study [9] investigating the effects of the probiotic VSL#3 on body and fat mass, 20 lean males were randomized to receive either a placebo or VSL#3 probiotics daily during a four week study period of consuming a high fat, hypercaloric diet that provided 1000 calories than they needed each day. The study found that those in the probiotic group gained less weight than those in the placebo group.

These findings suggest that some probiotics may help prevent weight gain following a high-calorie diet.

5. Some Probiotics May Help You Lose Weight And Belly Fat

A 2020 study [10] examining the effects of Lactobacillus sakei, a probiotic derived from Kimchi – a traditional Korean dish of salted and fermented vegetables found that obese participants given the probiotic had significant decreases in body mass and waist circumference.

Another study [1] investigating the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotics on weight loss found that female participants given the probiotic lost 50% more weight than those taking a placebo over 12 weeks.

Best Probiotic For Gut Health And Weight Loss

Honestly, there are no bacteria that will magically cause weight loss. However, some probiotics are more promising than others regarding weight loss. Here are some probiotics that may help with gut health and weight loss.

1. Lactobacillus Species – Lactobacillus bacteria form a significant component of the human microbiota in the gut. They are the most common probiotic found in foods such as yogurt and are the most studied when it comes to weight loss.

Lactobacillus gasseri is the most promising probiotic for weight loss and has been shown to help reduce body fat, BMI, waist size, and hip circumference. In one study [11] >, researchers observed a reduction of belly fat by 8.5% after taking this probiotic.

Other strains in this family, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus sakei, have also been suggested as potential probiotics for weight loss.

2. Bifidobacterium Probiotics – Several strains of bifidobacterium may help reduce body weight and belly fat, according to studies [12] . In one study [12], 135 people with obesity took Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis for three months. The researchers observed that they significantly lost belly fat reduced BMI, and weight circumference compared to the placebo group.

Other probiotics associated with weight loss include Christensenella minuta and Akkermansia muciniphila.

Sources:

  1. Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, Emady-Azar S, Lepage M, Rezzonico E, Ngom-Bru C, Berger B, Philippe L, Ammon-Zuffrey C, Leone P, Chevrier G, St-Amand E, Marette A, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003875. Epub 2013 Dec 3. PMID: 24299712.
  2. Venessa K, Jeremiah J, Jefferey I, Gordon. Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1241214 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1241214
  3. Neha Alang, Colleen R. Kelly, Weight Gain After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation, Open Forum Infectious Diseases, Volume 2, Issue 1, Winter 2015, ofv004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ofid/ofv004
  4. Christian D, Shizhen Q, Yong Zhou, Sushmita P, Li T, Jennifer C, Andrew T, Nathan D, Leroy H, Sean M. Baseline Gut Metagenomic Functional Gene Signature Associated with Variable Weight Loss Responses following a Healthy Lifestyle Intervention in Humans https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00964-21
  5. Brahe L. K., Astrup A., Larsen L. H. (2016). Can We Prevent Obesity-Related Metabolic Diseases by Dietary Modulation of the Gut Microbiota? Adv. Nutr. 7, 90–101. 10.3945/an.115.010587
  6. Harakeh SM, Khan I, Kumosani T, et al. Gut Microbiota: A Contributing Factor to Obesity. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2016;6:95. Published 2016 Aug 30. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2016.00095
  7. Harakeh SM, Khan I, Kumosani T, et al. Gut Microbiota: A Contributing Factor to Obesity. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2016;6:95. Published 2016 Aug 30. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2016.00095
  8. Gagliardi A, Totino V, Cacciotti F, et al. Rebuilding the Gut Microbiota Ecosystem. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(8):1679. Published 2018 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081679
  9. Osterberg KL, Boutagy NE, McMillan RP, Stevens JR, Frisard MI, Kavanaugh JW, Davy BM, Davy KP, Hulver MW. Probiotic supplementation attenuates increases in body mass and fat mass during high-fat diet in healthy young adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Dec;23(12):2364-70. doi: 10.1002/oby.21230. Epub 2015 Oct 14. PMID: 26466123.
  10. Lim S, Moon JH, Shin CM, Jeong D, Kim B. Effect of Lactobacillus sakei, a Probiotic Derived from Kimchi, on Body Fat in Koreans with Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Study. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020 Jun;35(2):425-434. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2020.35.2.425. Epub 2020 Jun 24. PMID: 32615727; PMCID: PMC7386112.
  11. Kadooka Y, Sato M, Ogawa A, Miyoshi M, Uenishi H, Ogawa H, Ikuyama K, Kagoshima M, Tsuchida T. Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov 14;110(9):1696-703. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001037. Epub 2013 Apr 25. PMID: 23614897.
  12. Yin YN, Yu QF, Fu N, Liu XW, Lu FG. Effects of four Bifidobacteria on obesity in high-fat diet induced rats. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(27):3394-3401. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i27.3394

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