Probiotics can help to enhance digestive health, but emerging research suggests they could play a role in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, too.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are defined as live microorganisms (usually bacteria) that, when eaten, have health benefits on the host (aka you).
Yes, we’re talking about eating bacteria. But, it’s not as icky as it sounds. You see, inside each and every one of us there’s already a vast collection of bacterial cells – trillions and trillions of them, to be exact. And, you need these ‘microbes’ to digest food, produce vitamins, and feel great. You can read more about probiotics here.
If I already have bacteria in my body, why do I need probiotics?
There’s a combination of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria inside everyone. The good bacteria helps you to stay healthy, while the bad are responsible for causing diseases and viruses.
One disease more and more researchers are focused on is obesity, and there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that altering the balance of bacteria in the gut could help to promote weight loss.
Understanding the link between gut health and weight
Over the years, scientists have tested the gut-weight theory by transferring microbes from obese mice to healthy mice and studying the effects.
Research has consistently shown that the microbes of obese animals and humans lack diversity and have a high number of certain types of bacteria that are thought to impact the way food is metabolised.
The question of whether altering this balance actually helps people to lose weight is yet to be answered, though – and, that’s because obesity is a complex interplay of exercise, diet and environmental factors.
Still, available evidence indicates altering the gut bacteria could be one important step towards maintaining a healthy weight.
A 2015 Japanese study suggested probiotics may help you absorb less fat and excrete more fat. This effect could help you to process food more efficiently and reduce food cravings, keeping you fuller for longer.
Further research suggests inflammation could contribute to insulin resistance which in turn leads to weight gain.
And, a European research team’s review, published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, suggested changing the balance of bacteria in the gut could not only impact body weight – it could also influence glucose and fat metabolism, insulin sensitivity and help to reduce inflammation.
How to consume more probiotics
If you’d like to add more probiotics into your diet, natural yoghurt is a great source of active, live cultures. Many people opt for fermented foods, too. Fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso, and sauerkraut, are foods produced or preserved by the action of bacteria.
A probiotic supplement might also help to restore a healthy balance – read our article on probiotics for more on this.
As well as consuming more probiotics, the following lifestyle steps are also important to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:
- – Eat a healthy diet – reducing high-sugar foods and those containing saturated fats
- – Drink plenty of water – aim for 8 glasses every day
- – Exercise – you can’t maintain a healthy weight without regular exercise
- – Sleep and reduce stressors – a happy mind equals a healthy body