Curtis’s Note: there have been plenty of studies showing that supplementing with probiotics can help you either lose weight or keep weight off. The strain of the probiotics definitely makes a difference (Lactobacillus gasseri appears to be the most effective at weight loss). VSL#3 appears to be effective at preventing weight gain. Even though these probiotics have shown promise – I make no bones about the fact that they should only serve as a supplement or aid to a solid eating style and smart exercise.
You may already know that right now your body has both good and bad bacteria in it. In some cases, say when you’re taking an antibiotic to treat an infection, you can see your ‘good’ bacteria in your gut killed off. In those cases (especially in kids) diarrhea can be a results of an overabundance of bad bacteria.
To counteract that we will supplement patients with probiotics while they are on the antibiotic and it definitely helps.
The question now is can probiotics help with other conditions that are possible related to gut health? Namely, can probiotics help you in lose weight?
The Studies Show Promise
Frieling #8 Cup Metal French PressThere have been a number of studies done using probiotics to help people lose weight. Most of them used lactobacillus. But remember that lactobacillus can come in different strains.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus was used in a 3-month long study in overweight women. The women taking this particular strain lost 50% more weight versus the women taking a placebo pill.
Then there is Lactobacillus gasseri.
In this 12-week study it helped participants decrease their belly fat by up to 8.5% versus the people who didn’t take it. Interestingly, when they stopped taking the probiotic (which was found in fermented milk) the losses in belly fat became weaker.
How Does Lactobacillus gasseri Work?
The studies do show promise. But how are these probiotics helping people lose weight?
The bottom line is we aren’t sure but we think that they play some role in lowering the amount of fat hydrolysis that occurs in your body. This has the end result of you absorbing less fat and excreting more in your feces.
But is this a healthy way to lose weight? Are you excreting healthy fats as well?
These are all questions we really don’t have the answers to right now.
These Lactobacillus Strains Did Not Help With Weight Loss
Scientists also went back on the available studies and looked at other lactobacillus strains and found that some of them can actually cause weight gain. These include:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (weight gain in humans and animals)
- Lactobacillus fermentum (weight gain in animals)
- Lactobacillus ingluviei (weight gain in animals)
A Word About VSL#3
I’ve been asked specifically about VSL#3 in the past. Probably because it is the only probiotic brand that was used in a study to find out if you could prevent weight gain with probiotics (as opposed to weight loss).
I did not think VSL#3 would generate positive results as it contains a wide mix of strains including Lactobacillus acidophilus (which has been shown to promote weight gain).
The results were promising as VSL#3 lead to lower body mass and fat mass increases compared to the control group. The people in the study were NOT obese (compared to other studies) and used a higher fat, higher calorie diet.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to probiotics and weight loss it can be a lot to digest (no pun intended). Some strains appear to help. Some strains don’t. Still other probiotic supplements that contain strains that we didn’t think would be helpful actually helped.
If you are struggling with weight you should follow a simple three step plan:
- Start by eating better first.
- Add in some exercise
- Once you have that dialed it – supplement with probiotics as a way to either speed up your results or prevent any weight gain. I’d recommend Lactobacillus gasseri for weight loss. Or, if preventing weight gain is your goal consider VSL#3.