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Can probiotics support weight management?

Laura Harcourt

Written byLaura Harcourt

Kefir milk in a glass
Probiotics are good for your gut health, but can they help with weight loss? We explore the benefits of probiotics for weight loss, probiotic foods & more in our article.
Probiotics have been linked to various health and wellness benefits, including immune, heart, and digestive health. But what evidence is there that they support weight loss?

Maybe you’re unaware of probiotics or sceptical of this highly hyped health food. If you’re interested in getting and staying lean, should you consider incorporating more fermented, probiotic-rich foods into your diet?

In this article, we’re going to look at the link between probiotics and weight loss, as well as the scientific evidence to back this up. We’ll also touch briefly on how to introduce more probiotic foods to your diet.

The gut and human body weight

In recent years, there has been increased scientific interest in how the gut works, the overall gut microbiota, and how this affects the human body. In particular, there is a lot of research on whether or not fermented foods are the secret to good gut health and whether there is a link between good gut health and weight loss.

While there is a lot of scientific research into exactly how good gut bacteria affects weight loss, a lot of the results are still inconclusive.2

There have also been multiple studies which have found that people living with obesity may have an imbalance in good and bad bacteria compared with those considered a healthy weight.23 However, researchers are yet to discover why and whether it’s a cause or effect of obesity.

3 ways probiotics impact body weight

So, what’s the link between probiotics and weight loss? Here’s some of the science:

1. Reducing appetite

One study researching specific strains of probiotics, like butyrate, found that they can act as an appetite suppressant hormone that stops us from overeating the types of foods associated with weight gain.4

2. Encouraging the body to expel fat

Consumption of the probiotic, Lactobacillus gasseriin, was found to encourage the body to discard more fat stools, rather than keeping it, by reducing the body’s ability to absorb fat from food.5

3. Accelerating weight loss

Several studies have found a potential link between certain probiotic strains and weight loss. For instance, one study looking at the probiotic strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, found that by taking 2 capsules per day over 24 weeks, the women with obesity who were involved in the study lost more weight than the men.

Another study into Lactobacillus sakei, a probiotic strain found in kimchi, found that this particular strain might help people with obesity reduce body fat mass without serious side effects when taken twice a day for 12 weeks.7

Probiotic foods to add to your diet

There are plenty of good foods for gut health, and these overlap a lot with foods that contain probiotics.
Want to know how to start adding some of the best foods for gut health to your diet? 
  • Tempeh – Studies into tempeh are still relatively new, but one study did find that eating tempeh resulted in an overabundance of good bacteria, including one bacteria that may be effective at helping to prevent both type 2 diabetes and obesity.8 Try cutting tempeh into strips or cubes and eating as part of a curry or stir fry. 
  • Kimchi – This Korean probiotic is made from fermented cabbage. The science here is still in progress, but one early study found that kimchi helped reduce body fat, although more studies are needed.12 Kimchi makes a great tasty topping for rice-based dishes. 
  • Kefir – Kefir is one of the most probiotic foods you could add to your diet, having been shown to have a considerable impact on the gut microbiome, by increasing good bacteria.9  Try adding kefir to your morning smoothie. 
  • Yoghurt – One of the more “classical” probiotic foods on the market, yoghurts have been extensively reviewed and found to positively affect your gut microbiome by increasing the population of good bacteria.10  Try a small bowl of yoghurt topped with fruit to start each day. 
  • Cheeses – Similarly to yoghurt, cheese has been found to positively affect the gut. Cheese to look out for are Italian hard cheeses, gouda, blue cheese, cottage cheese and cheddar.10 Cheese can be high in saturated fat and salt, so just make sure you eat it in moderation.11

The final say

Although the exact link between probiotics and weight loss needs to be determined, early studies into specific probiotic foods – like kimchi and tempeh – show good results in maintaining a healthy balanced diet overall.

Introducing probiotic foods into your diet might help with weight loss, but if you’re looking to lose weight, you should always prioritise regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet.

Sources

1. Stavropoulou E, Bezirtzoglou E. Probiotics in medicine: a long debate. Frontiers in immunology. 2020. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02192/full
2. Abenavoli L, Scarpellini E, Colica C, Boccuto L, Salehi B, Sharifi-Rad J, Aiello V, Romano B, De Lorenzo A, Izzo AA, Capasso R. Gut Microbiota and Obesity: A Role for Probiotics. Nutrients. 2019. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893459/
3. Saad MJ, Santos A, Prada PO. Linking Gut Microbiota and Inflammation to Obesity and Insulin Resistance. Physiology (Bethesda). 2016. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27252163/
4. Goswami C, Iwasaki Y, Yada T. Short-chain fatty acids suppress food intake by activating vagal afferent neurons. J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Jul;57:130-135. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.03.009. Epub 2018. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29702431/
5. Ogawa A, Kobayashi T, Sakai F, Kadooka Y, Kawasaki Y. Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects. Lipids Health Dis. 2015. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25884980/
6. Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, Emady-Azar S, Lepage M, Rezzonico E, Ngom-Bru C, Berger B, Philippe L, Ammon-Zuffrey C, Leone P, Chevrier G, St-Amand E, Marette A, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24299712/
7. Lim S, Moon JH, Shin CM, Jeong D, Kim B. Effect of Lactobacillus sakei, a Probiotic Derived from Kimchi, on Body Fat in Koreans with Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Study. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32615727/
8. STEPHANIE S, RATIH NK, SOKA S, SUWANTO A. Effect of tempeh supplementation on the profiles of human intestinal immune system and gut microbiota. Microbiology Indonesia. 2017. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0395/80ddeb7242ca4e5575164a48e621e1c4921d.pdf
9. Dimidi E, Cox SR, Rossi M, Whelan K. Fermented foods: definitions and characteristics, impact on the gut microbiota and effects on gastrointestinal health and disease. Nutrients. 2019. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/8/1806
10. Aslam H, Marx W, Rocks T, Loughman A, Chandrasekaran V, Ruusunen A, Dawson SL, West M, Mullarkey E, Pasco JA, Jacka FN. The effects of dairy and dairy derivatives on the gut microbiota: A systematic literature review. Gut microbes. 2020. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2020.1799533
11. NHS Choices. Dairy and alternatives in your diet [Internet]. 2024 [cited 2024 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-types/milk-and-dairy-nutrition/
 
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