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Probiotics and Weight Loss: Can Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?

By Emily Hirsch, MS, RD

Medically Reviewed by Anthony Dugarte, MD

Last Updated on January 21, 2022

Can a healthier gut help you lose weight? Research suggests that probiotics might help you reach your goals. Here’s an evidence-based analysis.

Written by
Emily Hirsch, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Women's Health Specialist and GI Health
Emily Hirsch is a registered dietitian with over fifteen years of experience in the health and wellness space. She received her undergraduate degree in dietetics from the University of Rhode Island and her Masters of Science with distinction in nutrition education from California State University, Chico.
Medically Reviewed by
Anthony Dugarte, MD
Medical Reviewer
Anthony Dugarte, M.D., C.S.C.S. is a health and wellness writer and medical content reviewer. In addition to dedicating the last 7 years to medical research, Dr. Dugarte also has more than a decade of experience in strength and conditioning, nutrition, and rehabilitative exercise, as well as authoring and reviewing health and wellness-related content.

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Probiotics and Weight Loss: Can Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?
Photo Credit: iStock.com/katleho Seisa

Oftentimes, it seems everyone is on the hunt for the next diet or weight loss pill. Can probiotics help?

Probiotics have increased in popularity due to their numerous health benefits ranging from reduced gastrointestinal symptoms to mental health support.

But is weight loss one of them?

While more research is needed, the science surrounding probiotics and weight loss appears to be encouraging.

Your Gut Microbiome

Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with an array of diverse microorganisms that work in harmony to keep your body healthy.

This complex community of organisms consists of roughly 300 to 500 different species of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa, most of which are beneficial to your gastrointestinal system and overall health.

The helpful bacteria in your gut play an important role in digesting food, absorbing nutrients for your body to use, and helping to create a robust immune system.

Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria is an imperative part of your overall health. An imbalance of gut bacteria, known as dysbiosis, can lead to various digestive issues ranging from bloating to diarrhea.

Research has suggested that having a wide variety of beneficial bacteria in your gut may have far-reaching health benefits. (1)

These benefits include enhancing immune system functioning, decreasing symptoms of depression, and reducing the incidence of obesity.

Summary 

Your gut microbiome consists of various microorganisms that, when in balance, can benefit your overall health and wellbeing.

Having a wide variety of beneficial bacteria in your gut has been linked with an enhanced immune system, decreased GI symptoms, reduced symptoms of depression, and a reduction in the incidence of obesity.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria that can provide a wide variety of health benefits. They can also include certain types of yeast as well.

These healthy microbes can be found in foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, and dietary supplements.

They generally contain a variety of microorganisms. The most common are bacteria that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Much of the research surrounding probiotics has explored their use in enhancing digestive health. (2)

However, as new research is emerging, scientists are beginning to explore the role of probiotics in weight loss.

Summary 

Probiotics are live bacteria found in some foods and dietary supplements. They have been used to enhance digestive health, but new research suggests they may play a role in promoting weight loss.

The Link Between Probiotics and Weight Loss

There appears to be a potential relationship between probiotic supplementation, gut microbiome composition, and weight loss.

One 2020 review of the clinical trials found that taking probiotics may potentially improve body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). This study found that: (3)

  • When treated with probiotics for a longer time period, weight reduction was increased.
  • A mix of probiotic strains (versus an individual bacterial species) had a better effect on weight management.
  • Weight reduction was enhanced when using a probiotic in conjunction with a prebiotic (type of fiber that serves as food for a probiotic), modifying diet, and increasing physical activity.

The researchers noted that the relationship between the gut microbiome and body weight is complex. Further research is needed to understand the role of probiotics in preventing and treating obesity.

Additionally, one 2019 review and meta-analysis found that participants who received probiotic treatments had higher reductions in body fat, waist circumference, and (BMI). (4)

A 2018 review and meta-analysis found that participants that received probiotic supplementation had more significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, body fat, and BMI than the control groups. (3)

Researchers theorize that probiotics may play a role in weight loss by reducing fat storage and accumulation, decreasing inflammation throughout the body, reducing appetite, enhancing metabolism, and improving insulin sensitivity. (5)

One thing to note about probiotics is that a given effect of a probiotic is strain-specific.

This means if a study finds a benefit for a specific strain, it cannot be extrapolated to other strains of the same genus or even to others belonging to the same species.

This makes it difficult to conclude how to best use probiotics for specific conditions. 

Summary 

The research surrounding the use of probiotics for weight loss is promising.

Some studies suggest that when taking various strains and when a prebiotic is included, probiotics may help reduce body weight and body fat by reducing fat storage, decreasing inflammation, reducing appetite, enhancing metabolism, and improving insulin sensitivity.

However, more research is needed to understand the role of probiotics in promoting weight loss.

Best Probiotics for Weight Loss

When seeking a probiotic to promote weight loss, it’s important to know which strains to look for.

Lactobacillus gasseri

Lactobacillus gasseri is a strain of probiotic bacteria that shows some promise in promoting weight loss.

This study found that L. gasseri strains showed weight reduction and anti-inflammatory activity in large-scale studies. (6)

When combined with prebiotics, the L. gasseri strain prompted even further weight loss.

Food sources of L. gasseri include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and sauerkraut.

Summary

Lactobacillus gasseri is a strain of probiotic bacteria that may promote weight loss, particularly when combined with prebiotics.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

Another strain to look for is Lactobacillus rhamnosus. One study found that L. rhamnosus may help women lose weight and body fat. (7)

Researchers suggested that this specific strain may help obese women achieve long-term weight loss.

L. rhamnosus is often added to dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk to boost their probiotic content.

Try adding yogurt, kefir, cultured cottage cheese, or buttermilk into your diet to boost your intake of L. rhamnosus.

Summary

L. rhamnosus is a strain of probiotic bacteria that may help promote weight loss, especially for women. This strain is often added to dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk.

Bifidobacterium breve

Bifidobacterium breve is another probiotic strain to consider for weight loss.

A 2018 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that taking B. breve reduced body fat mass and body fat percentage in pre-obese adults. (8)

Try increasing your intake of high-fiber foods, including whole grains, apples, blueberries, and almonds, which will promote the growth of B. breve in your gut.

Summary 

Bifidobacterium breve is a probiotic strain that may help reduce body fat. Eating high-fiber foods can help promote the growth of this bacteria in your gut.

Are Probiotics Safe?

Probiotics are considered safe because they support the growth of good bacteria that can already be found in your gut.

On occasion, side effects of probiotics may result in mild gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating and gas. (9)

According to the National Institutes of Health, probiotics may cause harm in people with severe illness or those with a compromised immune system. (10)

Probiotic use may not be appropriate for these high-risk individuals, including critically ill patients and premature infants.

Related: How and When to Take Probiotic Supplements

Summary 

Probiotics are safe for most people but may cause some mild GI symptoms.

People with severe illness or compromised immune systems should not take probiotics as they may cause harm within this population.

Frequently Asked Questions

What probiotic is best for weight loss?

Studies have shown that probiotics that contain the following strains may be best for weight loss: Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium breve.

What time should I take probiotics for weight loss?

Some research suggests that taking probiotics just before a meal or with a meal may help the beneficial bacteria survive for longer. (11)

However, being consistent about taking a probiotic may be more important than the timing of the supplement.

Will probiotics help flatten my stomach?

Probiotics may help reduce bloating caused by an imbalance of bacteria in your gut.

While some studies show that taking probiotics may help reduce your waist circumference, more research is needed to better understand this connection.

How can I get more probiotics in my diet?

Whole food, natural sources of probiotics include sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, miso, and some dairy products like yogurt.

How much probiotic should I take for weight loss?

The number of probiotics per supplement will vary. It is best to look for a probiotic supplement with at least 1 billion CFUs and take the recommended dosage on the label.

The Bottom Line

While the research on probiotics for weight loss shows some promise, it’s important to note that more understanding is needed to establish a stronger link.

Dosages of each individual strain have not yet been determined.

Keep in mind that supplement labels don’t always list the amount of the specific strains of bacteria they contain.

Many brands use a “proprietary blend,” therefore, it is difficult to determine how much of each strain is in the supplement.

As a general rule of thumb, when choosing a probiotic, look for products with at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs).

If you are going to begin taking a probiotic supplement, quality matters. Try purchasing a probiotic from a professional brand or reputable health care professional.

Moreover, look for a product that has been third-party tested. Probiotics that have been third-party certified will have a certification stamp (like ConsumerLab or the USP) displayed on their label from the certification company.

Probiotics might play a role in helping you lose weight, in combination with other healthy lifestyle changes.

Next Steps

One of the most important factors in maintaining good gut bacteria and a healthy weight is eating a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

High-fiber foods can act as a prebiotic, allowing the good bacteria in your gut to thrive.

Eating a diet rich in fiber, including a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, will “feed” the friendly bacteria in your gut, further enhancing your gut health.

A low fiber diet characterized by processed grains, high fat, and preservatives can harm the good bacteria and compromise the delicate balance of your gut microbiome while reducing the number of good bacteria.

In addition to increasing good gut bacteria, other lifestyle changes may help in your weight loss efforts. These include:

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At WellnessVerge, we only use primary references for our articles, including peer reviewed medical journals or well-respected academic institutions.

  1. Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/
  2. Introduction to the human gut microbiota:
    https://portlandpress.com/biochemj/article/474/11/1823/49429/Introduction-to-the-human-gut-microbiota
  3. Probiotics for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Humans—A Review of Clinical Trials:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7465252/
  4. Impact of bacterial probiotics on obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease related variables: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6475231/
  5. The Potential Role of Probiotics in Controlling Overweight/Obesity and Associated Metabolic Parameters in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6500612/
  6. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics for weight loss and metabolic syndrome in the microbiome era:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30468509/
  7. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24299712/
  8. Effects of Bifidobacterium breve B-3 on body fat reductions in pre-obese adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6081611/
  9. Probiotics:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20208051/
  10. Probiotics: What You Need To Know:
    https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know
  11. The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22146689/