Research Roundup: Probiotics for Weight Loss

Research has demonstrated a mutually dependent relationship between diet, gut health, and weight. According to some studies, the obese are far more effective at harvesting energy from food and not as effective at expending it.  Obese people are also known to a have less diverse microbiome, which points to a reduced ability to restore balance in the GI tract.  Perhaps this explains why lean mice get fat when they receive gut transplants from obese mice!

Certain strains of probiotics can help reestablish gut balance. In one study, women who took Lactobacillus rhamnosus (L. rhamnosus) for three months along with moderate calorie restriction lost nearly 10 pounds each compared to women in the placebo group.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how L. rhamnosus exerts its weight loss benefits.  It’s known, however, that this probiotic strain affects certain regions of the brain and lowers the stress hormone corticosterone. This may reduce feeling of anxiety and depression and the overconsumption of sugary, “carby” foods that typically define stress eating.

The Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain used in the study can be found in some yogurts. But you’d get a larger amount by taking a supplement.  The best one I’ve come across is BioKult.  The benefits of these probiotics seems to be magnified with increased fiber intake. Fiber also provides satiety and most Americans are woefully deficient.

Lactobacillus gasseri is another probiotic strain with solid scientific research supporting it’s benefits in the area of weight management. A group of men were given a glass of fermented milk each day. Half contained Lactobacillus gasseri while the other half did not.

Testing of fecal samples before and after the study showed those receiving Lactobacillus gasser had a higher amount of fat in the feces after the 2 weeks, demonstrating its effect on metabolism.  Previous research out of Japan demonstrated that Lactobacillus gasseri can reduce waist size, body mass index (BMI) and the dangerous visceral fat that surrounds the internal organs. A 2010 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementing with this same strain reduced abdominal body fat and waist size.

You can get L. gasseri through your diet if you eat fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, lassi, natto, miso, and tempeh. As for yogurt, make sure it’s organic, preferably grass fed, and contains “live active cultures”. For a more potent probiotic boost, I recommend taking a supplement like iFlora from Sedona Labs.  Kyolic Kyo-Dophilus 9 would also be a good choice.