Probiotics and Weight Loss

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Good Bacteria and Gut Health

I’m sure most of you know that our digestive system (especially the colon) is full of “friendly” bacteria.  We’re just beginning to understand their importance for overall health, especially in the immune system.

Eating yogurt is one way to facilitate a healthy balance of these microorganisms in your gut.  Probiotic supplements have also become more popular as we realize the importance of healthy bacteria.  I think these supplements are useful–especially if you are having digestive issues or have had to take antibiotics (which tend to kill both “good” and “bad” bacteria).

But I’ve also seen probiotic supplements marketed as weight loss aids.  One theory is they make the intestines less permeable and less able to absorb fat calories.

Do probiotic of supplements really help with weight loss?

Scientists recently did a meta-analysis of the current research regarding probiotic supplements and weight loss.  In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a meta-analysis means that researchers analyzed the data from several studies.  This means the findings should be more reliable than that of just one isolated study/experiment.   Here is their conclusion: “The meta-analysis of these data showed no significant effect of probiotics on body weight and BMI.”1 They did note, however, that the number and quality of the studies is limited at this point.

There’s no conclusive evidence that probiotics help with weight loss, but researchers have noted connections between gut microorganisms and metabolism.  There seems to be a link, for example, between the prevalence of certain intestinal bacteria with metabolic diseases (like diabetes). Having said this, I don’t think we can even be sure if such links are cause or effect.  It’s entirely possible that bad eating habits (a high intake of sugar and processed carbohydrates) cause this before-mentioned prevalence.

Conclusion:

Right now there is not enough evidence to say probiotics help with weight loss.  But it isn’t a bad idea to use them–especially if you have recently taken antibiotics (for surgery, sickness, etc).  These supplements are inexpensive and useful for overall health.

Just remember a diet and exercise program is the key to losing weight.

Reference:

1. Nutr Res. 2015 May 21. pii: S0271-5317(15)00103-7. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.05.008. Probiotics for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
2. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2015 Jun 17. Influence of the human intestinal microbiome on obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

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