Probiotics are key to proper digestion and nutrient absorption to keep us well nourished, but science keeps discovering more and more about the benefits of probiotics. We now know that probiotics also play a major role in supporting a healthy immune system—of which up to 80 percent is housed in your gut—as well as possible roles in healthy metabolism, blood sugar levels, mood and even weight loss. In fact, many studies point to the potential probiotics have in weight loss. Here are some highlights:
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition links probiotics to fat loss. The study combined a probiotic with fermented milk. Of the 210 overweight people in Japan who participated in the study, the group consuming the probiotic for 12 weeks lost approximately eight percent visceral fat—an unhealthy fat building up around the heart and internal organs—while also losing one to three percent of their belly fat. During the same period, the placebo group did not experience any significant fat loss.
A study published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology indicates that probiotics may affect fat metabolism. In this animal study, two strains were tested, and one of the strains impacted the way that bile acids emulsify fats in the upper gut. This result points to the theory that, in humans, probiotic strains may influence the metabolism of bile acid, and as a result, may impact the amount of fat the body absorbs and retains as excess weight.
In 2006, a precursor study was published in the journal Nature (December 2006), which noted that the gut microbial populations between those who are obese and those who are lean are different. It also noted that when heavier people lost weight, their gut flora became like that of leaner people Researchers then investigated if there is a microbial component of being overweight, so they transferred gut flora from obese mice to lean mice and the lean mice gained weight—supporting the idea that gut flora composition can directly affect weight.
On the heels of this finding, Dr. Touhy from the University of Reading, indicated that overweight animals have substantially lower Bifidobacteria probiotic levels in their bodies than leaner animals do.
Adding to this discovery is a study showing that modulation of gut bacteria could directly affect metabolism and positively influence the body's glucose balance, which, of course, plays a role in weight.
Likewise, a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that Lactobacillus probiotics may assist in increasing weight loss. An animal study out of the University of Georgia showed that probiotics may support a decrease in weight, accompanied by a greater expression of leptin, a key hormone involved in appetite control, metabolism and weight loss.
Other studies indicate that probiotics serve new moms in their weight management goals, including one suggesting that probiotics—particularly those with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains—given during the first trimester of pregnancy may help women better manage their weight, especially abdominal obesity, after childbirth.
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