Can Probiotics Benefit Weight Loss?

If you thought friendly bacteria would be a fleeting trend, think again. Probiotics have already been shown to help support healthy digestion and elimination by restoring and maintaining the normal balance of bacteria in the gut. Now, emerging research suggests that probiotics may have yet another benefit: to help support weight loss in individuals who are overweight.

In a recent study conducted in Japan, researchers evaluated the weight, BMI, abdominal fat content and body measurements of 87 overweight men and women1. Participants were divided into two groups and given either 200 grams per day of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 or fermented milk with no probiotic content. Individuals in both groups were not asked to make any diet or lifestyle changes.

After 12 weeks, researchers noted measurable body changes in those who consumed fermented milk with probiotics. Participants in the probiotics group experienced (on average) a 4.6 percent reduction in visceral abdominal fat, 3.3 percent drop in subcutaneous abdominal fat, 1.4 percent decrease in body weight and 1.5 percent decline in BMI, along with 1.8 and 1.5 percent reduction in hip and waist circumference, respectively. No changes were observed in the placebo group.

Although I feel that a healthy diet and regular exercise are still the major keys to successful weight management, probiotics have many benefits and are certainly a worthy addition to a healthy lifestyle. It is important to remember that when consuming food that contains probiotics, such as yogurt, any benefit to your waistline may be overshadowed by excess sugar or fat. It is also worth mentioning that many yogurt products do not list the quantity of probiotics contained within – typically the amount is small.

Taking a daily probiotic supplement is an excellent way to introduce friendly bacteria into your system without the worry of extra calories. For adults, I recommend taking a probiotic supplement each morning that contains anywhere from 4 to 35 billion colony-forming units (CFUs). Look for a product that also provides prebiotics, indigestible carbohydrates that serve as an energy source for good bacteria (commonly listed as “fructo-oligosaccharides” on the label).