Can a Probiotic Slim You Down?

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Many people think they can use a probiotic to slim down, but research is mixed, at best, on the subject. While probiotics are associated with several health benefits, many more studies need to be performed before it can be definitively stated that these products can help you lose weight. Here’s some information on probiotics in general, as well as what research tells us about the potential benefits they can provide regarding weight loss.

How Probiotics Work in the Gastrointestinal Tract

You don’t know it, but there is a constant battle being waged among the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that are located in the gastrointestinal tract, also referred to as the “gut.”

If you only associate bacteria with disease, you’re obviously not alone. There are a lot of harmful bacteria inside of us, and they can cause a lot of different kinds of health problems. But there are also billions and billions of beneficial bacteria that help us in many different ways. They just don’t get as much attention.

The probiotics products you’ve seen advertised contain these beneficial bacteria (some also contain certain types of yeasts as well). They come in a lot of forms, such as drinks, capsules, powders, and others. They are designed to help boost the number of good bacteria so they can keep the bad ones in check.

There are a few different reasons that our beneficial bacteria can be depleted. One of the main causes is the use of antibiotics. While these drugs have helped countless people get over illnesses – and have also saved millions of lives – they do a number on the bacteria in the gut. Not only do they kill harmful bacteria, they kill good ones as well. Probiotics help replenish the supply of beneficial microbes.

But Can Probiotic Slim Me Down?

Let’s just say the jury is still out on this one. It’s highly unlikely that anyone will be coming out anytime soon and saying that a probiotic will slim your waist. Probiotics aren’t magic bullets in the battle of the bulge. And while they may not help you win the weight loss war, there are some indications they could help in the actual fight.

There are certain good bacteria in the gut that researchers believe may play a role in regulating weight. Research indicates that people who have weight problems may have more of a type of bacterium known as firmicutes in their systems, compared to other people who don’t struggle with obesity.1

Studies analyzing the potential ability for a probiotic to slim you down indicate that good bacteria could help in the production of a hormone known as GLP-1. This hormone reduces the appetite because it makes you feel full. Research shows that the more GLP-1 a person has, the better he or she will be able to metabolize calories and fat. Probiotics may also stimulate the production of the ANGPTL4 protein, which plays a role in reducing the amount of fat the body stores.2,3

Inflammation of the brain could also play a role in causing obesity. Many studies show that probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties, and as a result, they could play a role in keeping people from gaining a lot of weight. But a lot more research has to be conducted before a definitive link between weight gain and inflammation can be established.4,5

Can Probiotics Help You Get Rid of Belly Fat?

One of the reasons that we pack on the pounds is the accumulation of fat in the intestine. Studies indicate that probiotics could play a role in inhibiting the absorption of fat in this area of the gut.  One theory is that probiotics help prevent the body from absorbing calories, which are eliminated through urine and feces before they can convert to fat.6

There was another study that involved nearly 30 overweight people who participated in a clinical trial. Researchers gave half of them yogurt with one probiotic bacteria (Lactobacillus fermentum), while the other half received yogurt with a different bacterium (Lactobacillus amylovorus). The trial lasted for 45 days, and then the subjects were tested to see if there had been any changes to their belly fat.

The group who had yogurt with L. fermentum lost an average of 3 percent of belly fat, while the other group saw a reduction of 4 percent. The researchers who conducted the trial weren’t sure why this was the case. They theorize that the bacteria in the yogurt destroyed salts produced by the liver that contribute to the absorption of fat.7

The Importance of the Lactobacillus Family of Bacteria

There seems to be a growing body of evidence that L. fermentum, L. amylovorus and other members of the Lactobacillus family of beneficial bacteria could help in the reduction of belly fat. In one study, a group of overweight women received probiotics containing the L. rhamnosus bacterium, while another group received a placebo. Both groups of women were dieting at the time. Results showed that the group taking L. rhamnosus lost 50 percent more weight than those on the placebo.8

Research also indicates that L. gasseri could play a role in helping shed belly fat. A study conducted in Japan involved more than 200 people who took probiotic supplements containing L. gasseri for 12 weeks. Researchers found the group lost an average of about 9 percent of their belly fat. However, the study participants regained that fat within a month after they stopped taking L. gasseri supplements.9

So, What’s the Verdict?

These results are encouraging without a doubt. But again, much, much more research needs to be done before anyone can definitively say that a probiotic can or cannot slim you down. It can be incredibly frustrating to try and lose weight. It’s not easy. A lot of people are desperately searching for an answer as to whether probiotics will help make a difficult weight loss program easier. Unfortunately, we simply can’t say with any degree of certainty probiotics can deliver that answer.

That’s not to say that probiotics can’t provide significant health benefits – far from it. But if you’re going to start taking them, do so for the right reasons. Understand that probiotics are not a magical fat-burning solution, though they can potentially be helpful.

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