Most of us have heard of probiotics; they help restore the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the digestive system. When gut balance is out of whack, you may feel bloated, be constipated, have diarrhoea, or experience many other digestive ills. Resetting your gut balance with probiotics may improve these – and many other aspects of health as well. A healthy gut microbiome might even add years to your life.
Probiotics for weight loss: evidence mounts
Exactly how probiotics may encourage weight loss is not 100 per cent clear, but the evidence is building. “There are a lot of bits and pieces of preliminary evidence that our gut biome and by extension, manipulating it by way of probiotics, may have a positive effect on weight management,” says Dr Scott Kahan. In one interesting mouse study, animals underwent weight-loss surgery or a sham procedure, and as expected, the mice who had the real surgery lost weight. But then the researchers transplanted bacteria from the gut of the weight-loss surgery group into the guts of mice that didn’t – and then they lost weight too! “In a few years, we will know a lot more about the gut microbiome and how to manipulate it with probiotics for weight loss,” predicts Dr Kahan.
Two types of gut bacteria linked to your weight
To understand the potential effects of probiotics on weight loss you need to start with an understanding of the key players. There are two first-families of bacteria in the gut: Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. “Lean individuals have a higher proportion of bacteria from the Bacteriodetes family, while obese individuals have more from the Firmicutes family,” says gastroenterologist, Dr Will Bulsiewicz. “The implication is that by modulating our gut flora to maximise Bacteroidetes and minimise Firmicutes, we can optimise healthy energy harvesting from our food and kick our obesity problem to the curb.” Put another way, “If we choose the right blend of bacteria, the scale can tip in our favour,” he says.
But which are the best probiotics for weight loss?