Can probiotics help you lose weight?

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Probiotics have been incredibly popular in recent years mainly for their effects on intestinal health. However, medical scientists have been able to show more and more links between probiotics and many other health conditions. 

This article will look at the role of probiotics in weight loss and what actual evidence medical researchers have found.

I got asked a lot in my practice while giving lifestyle and diet to my patients whether they should try probiotics. This made me wonder if there is any strong evidence or guidelines that I can use to help my patients.

To my surprise, this concept has been around for quite some time and there are a huge amount of research data surrounding this topic. Some of them by prestigious organizations but most of them are from pharmaceutical companies.

Can It actually help you lose weight?

The short answer is “might be” but the evidence are promising. The reason I say  “might be” because there are no actual clinical guidelines have been published to support the use of probiotics in any form of weight treatment. However, the links between the body’s weight management with probiotics and the theories are quite convincing and interesting.

How do probiotics help you lose weight?

Although the exact mechanism is not known, almost all findings suggest that people with obesity have less diverse gut bacteria than lean people.

Reduce fat absorption

Probiotics reduce fat reabsorption from the intestines thus increasing the proportion of fat tissues in the feces. This mechanism is similar to Orlistat, which is currently the only FDA-approved weight loss drug.

La​​ctobacillus gasseri is known to prevent fat accumulation in the abdomen by increasing the fat excretion from faeces and reducing the activity of an enzyme called pancreatic lipase which helps the breakdown of fat and absorption.

Reduce appetite

Probiotics increase the amount of leptin in fat tissues, GLP 1, and PPY in the intestines which are the main hormones and proteins involved in telling the brain to stop eating.

GLP 1 is also used in diabetes for its effect on regulating insulin but is recently popular as a “ magical weight loss injection”. 

Reduce inflammation and Increase the Efficiency of Cells

It is well known that probiotics help reduce inflammation in the gut mainly at the cellular level. The theory proposed is that healthier gut cells lead to increase insulin sensitivity and therefore lower the amount of energy absorbed into the blood. 

An increase in insulin sensitivity also induces satiety in the brain.

Which Probiotics Strain is Good for Weight Loss?

The most promising strain has been Lactobacillus Gasseri in most studies, showing a reduction in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and visceral fat.

Other Lactobacilli such as L Rhamnosis, L Plantarum, and Bifidobacterium such as B Animalis and B Bifidum also produced similar outcomes.

One study done on women taking 6 months of probiotics showed, adding probiotics produces 50% more weight loss and also benefits in the long term by maintaining the resulting weight.

However, in 2016, researchers analyzed several research articles and concluded that L. rhamnosus produces a significant result in women.

The most striking finding from that review was, two different strains of Lactobacillus Gasseri produced contrasting results.

The strain L. Gasseri BNR17 reduced weight gain while L. gasseri L66-5 even promoted weight gain. The exact mechanism has not been identified

Combined with Prebiotics

The weight loss benefits of probiotics are amplified by adding prebiotics which is fiber indigestible to human but an essential source of food for probiotics.

Prebiotics not only help the diversification of probiotics species, but also regulate blood sugar levels, lipid metabolism, and regular bowel habit.

Limitations of studies 

Despite more and more promising evidence being found, none of the probiotic strains or combinations are approved to use in weight loss management.

Many studies used dietary and exercise along with probiotics. 

Most of the studies include different ages, sex, population, and genetic factor which can all affect overall body weight.


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Dr Tun Min is s GP working in NHS UK and writing articles about supplements and vitamins based on personal clinical experience and clinical research.

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