Probiotics and Weight Management: A Promising New Study

Probiotic Weight LossDo probiotics have a role to play in weight management? With obesity on the rise, it’s a question researchers are taking seriously. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that one-third of adults in the U.S. are clinically obese and about 17 percent of children. Those are alarming statistics when you consider the health implications that come with being overweight.

The medical community is scrambling for answers to the obesity epidemic. While it is still unclear the effect probiotics have on weight management, there is a new study that suggests the right microbes may have anti-obesity benefits.

The Epidemic of Obesity

People often see being overweight as a cosmetic issue, but it is a more complicated global problem. Being overweight puts you at risk for:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoarthritis and other joint problems

 

Obesity is more than a health concern, too; it’s a financial one. The CDC estimates that obesity costs American consumers billions of dollars each year. The agency reports that in 2008, medical costs for those who were overweight reached around $147 billion dollars. Obese individuals have an average of $1,500 dollars more in medical expenses annually than a person with a healthy BMI and weight.

The problem extends outside the U.S., as well. The World Health Organization reports that the obesity rate is rising throughout the world. More than 80 percent of the countries surveyed show an escalating trend.

What Causes Obesity?

Your odds of being obese depend on several factors such as genetics and lifestyle choices. More recently, connections have been made between a lack of gut microbe diversity and weight, as well. The gut is home to tens of trillions of bacteria, many of which help digest the food we eat. The diversity of these microbes is a significant factor in metabolic regulation, which in turn is associated with the creation of adipose tissue or body fat.

Promising Study on the Anti-Obese Effects of Certain Microbes

As healthcare consumers become more aware of the dangers that come with certain lifestyle choices like poor diet and lack of exercise, modern science is discovering more about the importance of the gut microbiota. A recent study, released just this month, is offering promising results regarding key microbes found in some probiotic products specifically:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum
  • Bifidobacterium longum (AKA Bifodbacterium longum subsp. infantis)

 

This study considers previous research that indicates the right combination of probiotic bacteria has anti-obesity effects. Researchers used laboratory mice that were fed primarily a high-fat diet. Due to the unhealthy diet, these mice have what medical professionals call metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a cluster of conditions including:

  • High blood sugar
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess body fat
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels

 

Metabolic syndrome affects about 23 percent of the U.S. population, per the American Heart Association. The report published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications indicates anti-obese effects from two Lactobacilli and two Bifidobacteria on the mice.

The researchers found:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus significantly reduced triglyceride levels in the mouse liver. It also inhibited serum activities of serum activities of aspartate transaminase and alanine transaminase. Elevated levels of these two serums are associated with liver diseases, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.
  • Bifidobacterium bifidum decreased the triglyceride – one of the main components of body fat – levels in the mouse liver. It also affected the serums activities of aspartate transaminase and alanine transaminase.
  • Bifidobacterium longum significantly suppressed weight gain in the mice regardless of food intake. The study used mice fed a high-fat diet. The use of this microbe suppressed weight gain even though the scientists didn’t change the mice’s diet.

 

There is no easy answer to obesity. Controlling the escalation will require several changes including better eating habits. This study shows that probiotics are an effective solution for some problems and while it is far from conclusive, it does offer insight into how improving the gut microbiota might affect metabolism and weight management.

The best way to manage your weight is with a healthy diet and effective exercise program, ideally ones that have been individualized for your personal needs and goals. Adding a daily probiotic supplement might prove beneficial, as well, because research does suggest that lack of gut diversity is a factor worth considering as you work to manage your weight and stay healthy.