What is a probiotic
Probiotics are tiny, live microorganisms that live in the digestive tract and offer health benefits to the person who consumes them. It is understood that probiotics help to achieve better health by changing the balance with other microorganisms in the gut.
Where probiotics work
Each person is estimated to have 2,000 different species of gut microbiota, and altogether they might have in total 100 trillion (or 100,000,000,000,000) of these microbes inside them.
Each species works in a specific way to affect the overall digestive environment. Animal studies have shown, for example, a connection between Lactobacillus pacacasei and lipid synthesis, nutrient absorption and digestion, and a reduction in oxidative stress. Probiotics have also been linked to decreases in inflammation, to the production of hormonal responses like insulin, and to changes in satiety.
Probiotics are understood to influence the digestive system, as well as the liver, brain and body fat tissue. For these reasons, scientists are investigating if there is a connection between microbes in the digestive system and obesity, type 2 diabetes, as well as other cardiovascular conditions.
Why your gut health literally starts at birth
All of the microorganisms in a person’s digestive system are referred to as microbiome. Incredibly, humans receive that microbiome at birth as they pass through the vaginal tract! Over time that microbiome enmeshes itself in the receiver’s system.
The link between probiotics and anti-obesity
There has been significant attention paid to the recent increase in the incidence of obesity. At the same time, interest in the role of probiotics to assist with weight management and balancing of energy ‘out and in’ has increased.
Currently there is limited research in humans to understand exactly how probiotics can affect weight loss. Given the large number of probiotic species this means there is plenty of further research to complete. However, trials have shown that morbidly obese patients undertaking gastric bypass surgery who also took a capsule of a Lactobacilli species achieved significantly greater weight loss and increased vitamin B12 levels.
A trial in healthy, pregnant women, showed that using probiotics together with dietary counselling resulted in lower blood glucose levels, fewer cases of gestational diabetes, and less abdominal body fat.
While there are studies such as these which link probiotics with weight loss, researchers do not yet understand exactly how probiotics work to assist with weight reduction.
The future for probiotics and weight loss
As you have heard so far, there appear to be some highly sought-after weight loss and general health benefits associated with probiotic use. As more information comes to light about probiotics and their mechanism of action, researchers predict that new ‘anti-obesity probiotics’ are likely to be developed and promoted as an innovative solution to assist with weight loss.
There is still a great deal of further research to be undertaken, but the potential of probiotics seems promising.
Reference: Arora, T., Singh, S., & Sharma, R. K. (2013). Probiotics: Interaction with gut microbiome and antiobesity potential. Nutrition, 29(4), 591–596. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2012.07.017
Do you take probiotics, or recommend them to your weight loss clients? Do you think they help people achieve their weight loss goals? Share your experiences in the comments below.