More Evidence on Probiotics for Weight Loss

There is plenty of clinical evidence that the use of probiotics might help facilitate weight loss, but a new review and meta-analysis puts it all into perspective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 37 percent of the adult population is obese. That’s an important statistic when you consider the role obesity plays in disease.

Obesity is defined as an excess amount of body fat — typically a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. A person who is extremely obese is likely to suffer from medical problems related to their weight such as osteoarthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Fortunately, even moderate weight loss can help reduce these risks. Probiotic supplementation might play a role in achieving that goal.

The Gut Microbiota

Animal and human guts house trillions of bacteria that help with digestion and maintain energy balance. These bacteria are necessary to ferment otherwise indigestible carbohydrates and to synthesize components that provide energy.

There appears to be a link between changes in the gut bacterial community to obesity. Finding ways to manipulate the gut microbiota may play a central role in good health.

The Norway Team Meta-Analysis

A team from the Morbid Obesity Centre in Norway did a meta-analysis of 15 randomized controlled studies that looked specifically at how probiotic supplementation might affect body weight and mass. Dr. Heidi Borgeraas stated that the team found a short use of probiotics did reduce body weight, BMI, and percentage of fat, but in small amounts.

All the trials looked at by this group included interventions between 3 to 12 weeks in length and, with the exception of three studies, they all used Lactobacillus as at least one of the probiotics in the formula. Many of the clinical reports assessed in this meta-analysis offered multiple genera in the probiotic doses, as well.

The Obesity Review Report

The authors of this meta-analysis went on to publish their findings in the journal Obesity Reviews. The report states that the oral administration of different strains of bacteria has been proposed in the past as a way to manipulate gut microbiota and help with weight reduction. For this study, they used randomized controlled trials of adults that were clinically overweight with a BMI of 25 to 29 or obese with a BMI of 30 or higher. The participants took a probiotic supplement either in capsule form or added to food. The meta-analysis included 957 subjects that met the study criteria.

Ultimately, what they found was that probiotic supplementation using different Lactobacillus strains did lead to weight loss. The amount each participant lost was small but significant. The study authors concluded:

“Administration of probiotics resulted in a significantly larger reduction in body weight […..] compared with placebo; however, the effect sizes were small.”

The meta-analysis wasn’t entirely conclusive but did offer some promising results. The study authors suggested that more long-term studies were necessary to really know how probiotics might affect weight loss and body mass.

More importantly, this research continues to build upon past research providing further evidence and proof that the health of your gut and the microbes that live within it may contribute to weight and maintenance as we’ve been writing about for a number of years. You can see additional blogs we’ve written on this topic here:

Probiotics & Weight Management (2017 Blog) – in this blog we reviewed research in mice showing positive effects on weight gain, fatty liver, liver enzymes and cholesterol. We also reviewed research on adolescents with obesity and probiotics for blood sugar control in women during pregnancy and postpartum.

How a Healthy Digestive System Can Help You Lose Weight (2014 Blog) – in this blog we looked at the differences in the gut microbiota of athletes compared to non-athletes as well as a study on the microbiota of twin mice where one twin was obese and the other twin was not.