Probiotics won’t help you lose weight, say researchers

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Probiotics won’t help you lose weight, say researchers

Related tags Obesity functional beverage beverage

Probiotics are not effective for weight loss, say researchers behind a review of current data.

The meta-analysis showed no significant effect of probiotics on body weight and body mass index (BMI).

The researchers from the Hoseo University and Keimyung University in South Korea warned though that quality data from rigorously designed randomised controlled trials (RCTs) had been limited and further research was needed to confirm the findings. 

The initial data search yielded 368 articles – yet only four of these were RCTs comparing the efficacy of probiotics with a placebo and therefore included in the final meta-analysis. They added that the strains


used in the studies were not always clear. The probiotics used - mainly Lactobacillus ​species - ​were delivered in capsule and yoghurt form at similar dosages (1010​ colony-forming units per day). 

The big fat question 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 with over 1.9 billion adults overweight in 2014. Of these more than 600 million were obese.

Obesity is largely associated with a mismatched energy balance – consuming more energy than is expended.

“However, changes in energy balance alone cannot explain the increased incidence of obesity. Recent human and animal studies have shown the intestinal microbiota to be a potential determinant of obesity,”​ the researchers wrote in the journal Nutrition Research.

It has been suggested that gut microbiota plays a role in energy harvesting, storage, and expenditure and the intestinal flora of obese people differs from ‘lean’ people – leading to the theory that a high fat diet alters microbiota.

Gut microbiota has also been shown to influence low-grade inflammation conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Last year a Nestlé-backed study published in the British Journal of Nutrition​ ​found evidence that certain probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus ​may help women lose and keep off weight. 

Commenting on the results at the time, the company said: The increased prevalence [of obesity] has led to intense research into the underlying causes, as well as programmes and therapies that may help prevent or manage the disorder. The causes are likely to be multifactorial and solutions may need to be tailored to the individual.”


Source: Nutrition Research

Vol 35, Iss 7, pp 566–575, doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2015.05.008

Probiotics for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis”

Authors: S. Park and J. Bae 

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1 comment

Meta reviews of probiotics are not worthwhile

Posted by Philip,

It seems to me that doing meta-analysis on the effects of probiotics as a general group, is a very pointless exercise. It is very well documented that the benefits of probiotics are extremely strain-specific. Therefore lumping all probiotics into an analysis is a very flawed idea and of no value whatsoever. It also serves to undermine the very good research that is carried out on specific strains with targeted health benefits. Reporting of these studies should clearly identify this issue. Probiotics are not the same as vitamin C for instance, which while still having numerous variables such as dosage and delivery format, at least has the same chemical structure.

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