In addition to their role in supporting digestive and immune health, scientists have been looking at the link between probiotics and weight loss—and a new study out of Canada shows these good bacteria may indeed help us shed those extra pounds and keep them off.
Researchers from the Université Laval in Quebec recently teamed up with the food and beverage company Nestlé to dig deeper into how probiotics may help us stay slim by influencing the bacteria in our digestive tracts. They followed 125 obese but otherwise healthy adults for a period six months, half of whom received two pills daily of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus while the others received a placebo. For the first three months of the study, participants followed a calorie-restricted weight loss plan, but the remainder of the study was considered a “weight maintenance” period, during which participants still followed a diet plan but the calorie restrictions were lifted.
While there were no significant changes noted in the men, the women receiving the probiotics lost more weight—nearly twice as much—and more fat mass than those receiving the placebo. In addition, they showed a significant drop (25%) in the levels of leptin in their blood (a hormone closely linked to metabolism and appetite control) as well as a reduction in the number of Lachnospiraceae bacteria in the gut. In studies, this “superfamily” of bacteria has been linked to obesity.
The idea that probiotics can help us lose weight and stay slim is not a new one. Several other studies have looked at the link between obesity and gut bacteria. A study in mice showed obese mice had a decidedly different bacterial environment than lean mice. More importantly, it showed that transplanting specific bacteria from the lean to the obese mice actually resulted in the recipients eating less, losing weight, and storing less fat in their bodies.
Adding More Probiotics to Your Diet
Certain foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese contain probiotics, along with fermented foods like kefir (a fermented milk drink), pickled or fermented vegetables, tempeh, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut. However, because some foods often don’t contain enough probiotic cultures or a variety of strains, many experts recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement to reap the full benefits of probiotics. Look for a high-potency, 50 billion-count daily formula with at least 10 different strains that include clinically studied bacteria and delayed-release capsules for targeted delivery. The amount of live cultures should also be guaranteed through the expiration date, and not just at the time of manufacture.