Probiotics Help With Weight Loss, Study Finds

Consuming probiotics can help reduce weight and body-mass index (BMI, a measure of weight relative to height), according to a new study from China. Roughly 160 million Americans and 300 million Chinese adults are overweight or obese.


Probiotics are living microorganisms — typically bacteria — that are widely considered to be beneficial for various aspects of health, including digestion and immunity. These “good bacteria” can be found naturally in fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles, and are also available in supplements. Despite their popularity, however, there has been minimal scientific evidence supporting probiotics’ beneficial effects.

To evaluate the impact of probiotics on body weight and BMI, researchers conducted a meta-analysis (analysis of data from several clinical trials) of 25 randomized human trials, including a total of more than 1,900 healthy adults.

They found that taking probiotics decreased weight (by an average of 1.3 pounds) and BMI, with the greatest reductions occurring in people who were overweight, in people who were consuming multiple species of probiotics, and in people who were taking probiotics for at least eight weeks.

“To date, quite a few researchers have investigated the effects of probiotics on body weight and BMI, without consistent result,” noted lead study author Qingqing Zhang of the Department of Endocrinology, Taizhou People’s Hospital. This study is the first to show that probiotics can help with weight loss.

Although the number of pounds lost in association with probiotic consumption was small, the researchers suggest that even this amount of weight loss could be helpful for combatting conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

For more information, read the article “Consuming Probiotics Promotes Weight Loss, Reduces BMI” or see the study’s abstract in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. To learn more about probiotics, see the article “Probiotics and Prebiotics.” And for information on unconventional weight-loss approaches, see “Weird Ways to Lose Weight,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.

July 16 is Fresh Spinach Day, so why not make like Popeye and mark the occasion by incorporating more of this nutritious veggie into your diet! Bookmark and tune in on Sunday to learn more.

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    This is encouraging, with some caveats. The term “probiotics” is fairly broad. There are dozens of strains of gut bacteria, and although some seem beneficial for certain people, the same ones don’t seem to help others. I used probiotics to treat IBS, and found some worked and others didn’t. For example, the strain in Align, b. infantis 35624, worked well, but any form of acidophilus did nothing. In this study, there are variables such as cultural, dietary, environmental, and gut bacteria make up that would likely be quite different from a typical North American’s. It might be interesting to run out and buy some probiotics or drink keiffer or eat yogurt, but which strains would you want? It might depend on what’s in your gut now.

    The bottom line is a *lot* more research needs to be done in order to make this a viable therapy. I would love to see a day when a doctor would test your gut flora, see which beneficial organisms are deficient, and which harmful ones might be overgrown, then prescribe the appropriate strains to counter. Until then, self prescribing is a hit-and-miss proposition. If you’re lucky, you might get the correct combination for your specific needs. Or you may waste time and money, and possibly give yourself some uncomfortable digestive upset.