A Probiotic to Slim the Waist: Too Good to Be True?

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There has been a lot of hype surrounding probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that have been associated with several different types of health benefits. Some research even indicates that a probiotic can slim you down. Here’s some information on what probiotics are, and what the science says about the possibility that they can help you lose weight.

The Skinny on Probiotics

In order for your digestive system to work properly, you need a good balance between beneficial bacteria and other microbes and pathogenic, or “bad” microbes. There are trillions of these tiny creatures in your “gut,” or gastrointestinal tract, and they’re waging a war for control of your health – even though you have no idea this battle is going on.

When the bad microbes outnumber the good, that can lead to significant problems that affect the digestive system. These include diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and many others. But when there’s a good balance between good and bad microbes, then you have a much better chance of avoiding these issues.

That’s where probiotics play a key role. They’re available in many different forms, such as liquids, powders, and capsules, and they help make sure you have plenty of good microbes in your gut to keep the bad ones in check.

Many people need to supplement their diets with probiotics because modern agricultural practices not only kill bad microbes but good ones as well. Our supply of beneficial microbes can become depleted due to the way our foods are processed, as well as other factors, such as stress and certain types of medications.

Can a Probiotic Slim You Down?

Beneficial bacteria play a lot of roles when it comes to helping regulate body weight. For example, some of them help break down fibers we eat and convert them into important fatty acids.While researchers are not completely sure how different strains of bacteria affect weight, there is a belief that increasing our amount of certain good bacteria can have an impact on the way the body stores food.1,2

Research indicates that people who are overweight have different types of bacteria in their bodies than people who aren’t overweight. For example, studies show that people of normal weight have a higher supply of a type of bacteria known as “bacteroidetes,” while obese people have more firmicutes, another kind of bacteria.While research into the area of whether or not a probiotic can slim you down is in its very early stages, preliminary results indicate that bacteria in the gut could play a role in obesity.3

Which Probiotic Strains Are Most Effective?

While it’s not clear which exact strains of beneficial bacteria have an effect on weight loss, scientists are beginning to find clues. For example, one study indicated that people who ate yogurt containing the Lactobacillus fermentumand Lactobacillus amylovorusstrains saw a reduction in fat of between 3 and 4 percent during a six-week period.4

Another study involved 125 women who were on a diet at the time. One group received a probiotic to slim down containing the Lactobacillus rhamnosusbacteria, while the others received a placebo. The study lasted three months. The results showed that the women who took the probiotic lost 50 percent more weight than those who took the placebo.5

 

Lactobacillus Gasseriand Weight Loss

Most of the excitement surrounding the potential for a probiotic to slim the waist centers on the Lactobacillus gasseri(L. gasseri) bacterium. In a two-week study involving 30 men, half of them received a glass of fermented milk containing L. gasseri. The other half drank milk that did not contain the bacterium. Researchers conducting the study tested fecal samples of all the participants both before and after the study. The group receiving L. gasseri had higher amounts of fat in their stools than the placebo group, meaning they were eliminating more fat.6

How to Get Beneficial Bacteria Into Your Gut

You can get L. gasseri and other beneficial bacteria from a variety of foods, including sauerkraut and yogurt. But it’s very hard to maintain a sufficient supply of good bacteria through diet alone, which is why you should consider taking probiotic supplements as well.

While probiotics are considered safe for people in good health, you need to be careful if you have immune system or intestinal problems. The reason is that some people suffering from these issues actually reported that their conditions worsened after they took probiotics. Even if you feel fine, talk to your doctor anyway before starting any sort of probiotic regimen.

When you get permission from your doctor, look closely at the labels of the probiotic products you may be considering. If the label states that the bacteria within the product were viable at the time of manufacture, that doesn’t mean they’ll still be alive when you ingest them. Look instead for products with labels that state their bacteria will be viable until the expiration date. That will be your best bet the microbes in the product will work.

Storage information is also important. Many probiotic products need to be refrigerated in order to make sure their bacteria remain viable. Others, however, are made using a special freeze-drying process. These products will work as long as you store them in a cool, dry place that is away from direct sunlight or other sources of heat.

What’s the Takeaway?

There’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to weight loss. There is some research that suggests a probiotic can slim you down, but no one is saying that you can swallow a couple of capsules each day and lose weight. If you truly want to shed pounds and keep them off, you need to follow the tried-and-true methods of eating right and exercising on a regular basis. It might be boring, but nothing has proven to be more effective.

Sources:

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9406136

2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25473159

3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17183309

4http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464612001399

5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24299712

6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391304/

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