Probiotics seemed to be everywhere in 2016, increasing in popularity to a point where even Google named them as one of the hottest food trends of the year by search volume. We’ve covered the health benefits here before as well: everything from questioning whether they’re for you to identifying the best sources — even in a purely liquid format.
By now you probably know a bit about the health benefits associated with probiotics when it comes to improved digestion and gut health. So now let’s take that a bit further: Can they help you lose weight?
The answer is complicated, but it’s fascinating and shows how much more we still have to learn about probiotics.
First, a quick refresher. Probiotics are live, good-for-you bacteria. The prefix “pro” means supporting or promoting, while the root word “biotic” means life. So probiotic literally means something that supports life. And this part is for you science nerds: Here is where the microorganisms come in.
The “microbiome” is the microbial community found throughout your body — a collection of tiny living things about 100 trillion cells strong. A large majority of these microbes are found in your gastrointestinal tract and have been shown to have some powerful effects on general health. Extensive research has shown that your gut’s microbiome is key in training your immune system, aiding in digestion and providing key nutrients for your body.
But what’s really exciting is emerging research that has revealed how the microbiome can be modified by what we eat or drink, which can lead to impactful health effects. And that’s where probiotics play a role: They help promote the health and activity of your microbiome and come in a variety of different foods and beverages.
The health benefits associated with probiotic intake are pretty impressive and include reducing markers of inflammation and allergy, constipation and lactose intolerance. Beyond these gut-specific effects, new research suggests that probiotics may play a role in weight. In a recent study, researchers investigated the impact of consuming probiotics had on body weight and body-mass index in nearly 2,000 healthy adults.
The findings suggested that taking probiotics resulted in BMI and body weight reduction of about 1.3 pounds (0.6 kg) per individual. Additionally, the data demonstrated that these effects were enhanced if participants took multiple types of probiotics, if the probiotics were taken for more than eight weeks or if the participants were overweight.
If you’re thinking, “1.3 pounds is barely anything,” that’s understandable — most of us want to lose more than the equivalent of a six-week-old kitten. But even small shifts can have a large effects on your overall health. Additionally, it’s also important to underscore that these findings also demonstrate that time might play a role in the ability of the probiotic to have an effect. So if you’re trying out a new probiotic, use it for at least two months before assessing if it’s had a difference, especially on your weight.
There’s some compelling evidence for the role of probiotics on weight loss, but it’s also important to note this field is very much still in its infancy. It’s an extremely hot topic in the science community, and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in understanding the role of microorganisms on our overall health, let alone fully understanding the impact of probiotics on the microbiome.
The fact still stands that there are compelling reasons to add some probiotics into your diet, especially in the forms of probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.