Probiotic Benefits for Weight Loss and Immune Health

Probiotic supplementsProbiotics are a hot topic. You’ve probably heard the latest buzz about these microscopic bacteria and yeasts being beneficial for the health of the human gut.

Did you know they’re also present in pretty much all areas of the body? Yeah, we’re talking nasal cavity, lungs, reproductive system, and even the eyes… Creepy, but they’re there for a good reason:

Probiotics act to…

  1. Digest and break down some nutrients into their absorbable forms.
  2. Strengthen the intestinal wall to prevent a condition called intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.
  3. Digest carbohydrates in the large intestine through a process of fermentation. This creates by-product nutrients like short-chain fatty acids and vitamin K.
  4. Reduce inflammation by secreting anti-inflammatory chemicals.
  5. Educate the immune system on which pathogens to attack.
  6. Stimulate immune cells to grow and mature.
  7. Protect our body from pathogens by secreting chemicals that kill other types of bacteria.
  8. Regulate hormones and chemicals being released from the gut
  9. And lots, lots more… [1]

[ Click Here to View The Best Probiotic Supplements ]

What makes a probiotic a probiotic?

Any bacteria or yeast that is beneficial for the human body is considered a probiotic. Other types of bacterium and yeasts are usually pathogenic – they’re the bad guys. The balance between the good guys and bad guys is essential for optimal health. When the bad guys outnumber the good guys, it causes a condition called “dysbiosis” where the pathogenic bacteria promote inflammation, produce harmful gasses, and even affect hormone levels, blood sugar regulation, and weight gain!

Don’t panic – it’s easy to correct that kind of imbalance by taking a probiotic supplement or eating rich probiotic foods.Where Do You Find Probiotics?

Probiotic supplements are capsules that are full of beneficial bacteria strains. They are manufactured to survive digestion, travel through the intestines, and repopulate the lower bowel. These kinds of probiotics are relatively new – humans have been eating probiotics in fermented foods and drinks for hundreds of years:

  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Some pickles
  • Dark chocolate

It’s great to boost your intake of naturally occurring probiotics by adding these foods to your diet, but there is a downside – you never quite know what strains of probiotics you’ll get or how concentrated the bacteria may be.

Probiotic supplements have the benefit of being manufactured under strict processes and going through rigorous testing to ensure that certain bacterial and yeast strains are present in therapeutic amounts. Good quality probiotics have an “overage” – that is, the manufacturer over-packs the probiotic capsules so that it can guarantee that there is at least a therapeutic level of bacteria or yeast per capsule, even if some of them die off during transit.

Probiotics for Weight Loss

Recent studies have linked beneficial gut bugs with healthy weight, sparking a lot of research into the ways these probiotics can help to burn fat and improve body composition:

  1. Inhibit fat absorption: Supplementing with Lactobacillus species of bacteria have been shown to inhibit the absorption of excessive dietary fat, which stops it from adding to your calorie intake.
  2. Reduce inflammation: Probiotic supplementation has been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the entire body, but particularly in the gastrointestinal system and the brain. Lowering inflammation in these areas has been shown to boost the metabolism, reduce over-eating, and lower stress – all key elements of successful weight loss!
  3. Release of hormones that control appetite and fat burning processes:
    • GLP-1 is a hormone that is released from intestinal cells. It tells the body to “stop eating, we’re full!”. It is often deficient in obese people but studies have shown it can be restored with probiotics [2] [3].
    • ANGPTL4 is a protein that controls enzymes involved in fat storage. Its activity is influenced by gut microbes. By boosting levels of ANGPTL4, probiotics like Lactobacillus paracasei can stop the body from storing fat when it should be burning it [4].

A growing number of clinical trials support the use of probiotics for weight loss. These key strains of probiotic bacteria have the most research backing their use:

Lactobacillus gasseri

L. gasseri has plenty of research to justify its use in weight loss. In a 2013 randomized controlled trial, participants who drink a milk drink fermented with Lactobacillus gasseri experienced a whopping 8.5% reduction in fat loss from their abdomens compared to the control group [5]. The effective doses were as low as 10(8) CFU per day. Unfortunately, the impressive results didn’t last – most people gained weight after they stopped taking the probiotic!

Other studies have supported these findings, showing that L. gasseri may help to prevent absorption of excessive dietary fats [6] and can help to treat metabolic disorders [7].

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

L. rhamnosus is known to be highly effective in regulating blood glucose levels and has been shown to support weight loss in obese adults [7] as well as obese children [8].

Lactobacillus fermentum

A study in 2013 demonstrated that L. fermentum could support dieters to lose 3 – 4 % of their body fat within 6 weeks [9].

Other studies have looked at a combination of probiotics that work synergistically to promote weight loss. These strains include Bacillus subtilis, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, and B. breve.

Probiotics for Total Health

As a bonus to supporting weight loss, these probiotics may also reduce your risk of diseases associated with obesity. Probiotics help to break down cholesterol and they’ve been shown to:

  • Lower total cholesterol levels while raising HDL (“good” cholesterol)
  • Decrease high blood pressure
  • Reduce inflammation in the walls of arteries
  • Reduce fat accumulation in the liver [10]

How To Take Weight Loss Probiotic Supplements

When should I take probiotic supplements?

Take probiotics 30 minutes before food, and be sure to include plenty of prebiotic fibre in your diet for them to munch on!


Probiotics are safe for most people, but talk to a nutritionist if you have any concerns about safety.

[ View the best probiotic supplements and learn more here! ]

Further Reading:

  • [1] National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (2016) Probiotics : In Depth.
  • [2] Yadav, H., et al. (2013) Beneficial metabolic effects of a probiotic via butyrate-induced GLP-1 hormone secretion. J Biol Chem., 288:235, 25088 – 25097.
  • [3] Pannacciuli, N., et al (2006) Higher fasting plasma concentrations of glucagon-like peptide 1 are associated with higher resting energy expenditure and fat oxidation rates in humans. Am J Clin Nutr., 84:3, 556 – 560.
  • [4] Aronsson, L., et al. (2010) Decreased fat storage by Lactobacillus paracasei is associated with increased levels of angiopoietin-like 4 protein (ANGPTL4). PLoS ONE, 5:9.
  • [5] Kadooka, Y., et al. (2013) Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr., 110:9.
  • [6] Ogawa, A., et al. (2015) Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects. Lipids Health Dis., 14:20.
  • [7] Sanchez, M., et al. (2014) Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr., 111:8., 1507 – 1519.
  • [8] Le Barz, M., et al. (2015) Probiotics as Complementary Treatment for Metabolic Disorders. Diabetes Metab J., 39:4, 291 – 303.
  • [9] Omar, J. M., et al. (2013) Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in healthy persons. Journal of Functional Foods, 5:1, 116 – 123.
  • [10] Thushara, R. M., et al. (2016) Cardiovascular Benefits of Probiotics: A Review of Experimental and Clinical Studies. Food & Function.
About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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