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.
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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