Probiotic Supplements and Weight Loss

 A new study from researchers at the University of Manitoba shows that probiotic bacteria supplements may be an effective weight-loss tool in conjunction with other therapies.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Manitoba in Canada claims that dietary supplements containing live bacteria called probiotics have the potential to reduce abdominal fat and trim bulging bellies by preventing the intestinal absorption of fat and they could be utilized as an effective weight-loss tool in conjunction with other therapies. Some observers have said the results of the study could be called into question because the Canadian study was funded by the Micropharma Company that makes probiotic supplements, and that the relationship could represent a conflict of interest.

Probiotic organisms are considered to be any live microorganisms that are thought to be beneficial to the host organism, and they are commonly eaten as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures like yogurt, or as dietary supplements. Probiotics were once thought to be beneficial to the host by improving intestinal microbial balance and inhibiting the production of pathogens and toxin producing bacteria. Today, probiotics are receiving new scrutiny to see if they are truly effective in the reduction of intestinal inflammatory diseases, as well as the prevention and treatment of pathogen-induced diarrhea and urogenital infections. The question of their effectiveness arises from studies like those from the European Food Safety Authority that investigated probiotic health claims and found that the evidence provided was insufficient to establish a direct cause and effect relationship between probiotics and their claimed health benefits.

Lead researcher Peter Jones from the University of Manitoba study said although his team believes probiotics interfere with the absorption of fat calories and result in fewer overall calories being retained to pack on the abdominal fat, he also admitted that the Canadian study looked at people who were only slightly overweight to begin with, and since the slimming effects were fairly modest, probiotics alone wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the need to maintain a proper diet and exercise. Because active probiotic bacterial cultures can modify the ecology of the bacteria that colonize in human intestines, the presence of more beneficial bacteria could improve depression, reduce stomach problems and even fight minor illnesses like sinus infections, but people are not going to be able to lose significant amounts of weight by eating probiotics alone.

In order to isolate the effects of the bacteria and determine if they could affect weight loss on their own, the researchers supplied all of the food the study participants ate and after 45 days the participants who ate the probiotics lost 3% of their body fat and were 4% less fat overall than they were at the start of the study. Most of the losses were in the belly fat area and because the liver secretes bile salts that mix with fat and help digest it, the researchers believe the probiotic bacteria reduced body fat by preventing the intestines from absorbing fat calories in the first place. Unlike other weight-loss drugs in use that prevent fat absorption in the intestines, the probiotic bacteria didn’t cause unpleasant digestive side effects and only interfered with the absorption of fat by destroying the body’s bile salts. So far, the results are promising, but because the researchers did not follow their test subjects for a long time, more long-term studies will be needed to see if the weight reduction benefits of the probiotics will last more than just a few months.