Losing weight is one of the most popular health goals people have. There are plenty of reasons why this is the case.
Shedding a couple of pounds can help you look and feel good. It also promotes fitness and improves overall health. In some cases, it serves as an energy booster and prevents muscle and joint pains brought about by age or an unhealthy lifestyle.
In this quest to find the best and most effective weight loss therapy, one promising solution has emerged: probiotics.
This article will show what science has to say on whether probiotics can help people lose weight.
What is Probiotics?
Before tackling its effects on weight, you must first understand what the term “probiotics” refers to.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote fitness and overall health. While the word “bacteria” usually makes people think about disease-causing germs, that isn’t always the case.
You see, the human body is filled with all sorts of bacteria, both harmful and beneficial. Probiotics are among the friendly or good bacteria that ensure gut health.
The benefits of probiotics are abundant, and many of these have been studied over the years. However, its effects on the digestive system are probably the most talked-about of all.
Probiotics help ensure the balance of the human gastrointestinal microbiota, more popularly known as “gut flora.” It replenishes good bacteria to balance out the bad ones. This way, the gut isn’t overrun with harmful germs that cause diarrhea and other illnesses.
2 Main Types of Probiotics
Probiotic is a collective term referring to all good bacteria that ensure a balance in gut flora. But there are a lot of different kinds – each with their own benefits.
If you want to know the health perks they provide, you can start by looking at the two main groups of good bacteria:
Considered the most common probiotic, the Lactobacillus family is normally found in fermented foods like yogurt. It is also the bacterial strain that normally aids people who have difficulty digesting lactose – the sugar contained in milk.
Besides breaking down food, this family of bacteria also fights off harmful microorganisms that cause infectious diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
Another common type of probiotic is Bifidobacterium.
This type of good bacteria is usually found in dairy products, but they also occur naturally in the stomach and intestines. As such, this type of probiotic helps the body with some essential processes, including digestion.
Bifidobacterium also helps stave off bad bacteria, ensuring that they don’t overrun the gut.
Probiotics and Weight Loss: A History Lesson
In the past, scientists discovered that the good bacteria present in the gut flora of people with obesity are different than those with an average weight. To study this, scientists tried to implant these friendly live microorganisms in mice and discovered two things:
- There was no change in the mice’s weight that received gut bacteria from a person with average weight; and
- The mice that received gut bacteria from someone who was obese gained weight.
Because of these initial findings, researchers believed that gut bacteria might play a role in regulating human body weight.
Probiotics for Weight Loss: Does It Really Work?
According to several studies, it does.
Remember the two main types of good bacteria? One of them actually shows great promise when it comes to weight loss: Lactobacillus.
Research conducted on specific strains of the Lactobacillus family reveals that they could help people lose weight and belly fat. This research discovered that the consumption of yogurt containing Lactobacillus amylovorus or Lactobacillus fermentum helped lower body fat by about 3 to 4 percent within six weeks.
In another study conducted on 125 overweight people who were on a weight loss diet, it was found that Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplements aid not only in weight loss but in weight maintenance as well.
Women taking this type of probiotic supplement reported 50 percent more weight loss than the placebo group, who were only taking dummy pills during the research. Moreover, the probiotic group continued to show signs of weight loss during the weight maintenance stage of the study.
However, the most promising strain in reducing body weight and belly fat appears to be Lactobacillus gasseri.
Besides numerous animal studies that confirm this theory, research on Japanese adults reveals impressive results. According to one that followed 210 subjects, taking Lactobacillus gasseri for 12 weeks helps lower body weight and reduces waist size, BMI, hip circumference, and fat around the organs.
Plus, fat records show that their belly was 8.5 percent lower during their intake of the probiotic supplement. The results became more firmly in favor of Lactobacillus gasseri after participants gained back all their belly fat after the probiotic intake ended.
There is also research discussing how an imbalance of gut flora could lead to an increase in type 2 diabetes and insulin production, both of which can affect weight regulation.
Probiotics and Weight Gain Prevention
Besides losing weight, prevention is also a key phase in fighting obesity. Interestingly, probiotics also have some effects on preventing weight gain in the first place.
Proof of this is a four-week study of a probiotic formulation called “VSL#3,” which is a freeze-dried, multi-strain probiotic supplement. During the research, subjects who were overfed by 1,000 calories per day didn’t gain as much weight and fat as they would without VSL#3.
As a result, the group taking probiotics gained significantly less fat compared to the placebo group. This means that these friendly gut bacteria actually do have an effect on preventing weight gain when taken in the context of a high-calorie diet.
However, more studies need to be conducted to further qualify probiotics as a weight management solution.
Why Take Probiotics
Probiotics promoting weight loss may be the subject that many people are most interested in today. Specific strains of probiotics do have positive – albeit modest – effects on weight loss.
But at the end of the day, the fact remains that there are plenty of good reasons to take probiotics other than for weight loss.