A new study found a significant link between probiotics (AKA good bacteria) and weight loss, and it wasn't the first study of its kind. When 87 overweight people downed a fermented milk product containing a Lactobacillus strain for 12 weeks they had a 4.6 percent reduction in belly fat, and a 3.3 percent reduction in subcutaneous fat (the jiggly fat just under the skin). Their waistlines and hips also slimmed down.
A study published last year found that one year after giving birth, women were less likely to carry excess belly fat if they had been given probiotics from the first trimester of pregnancy. In the study, over 250 women were randomly divided into three groups at the start of their of pregnancies. Two of the groups received nutrition counseling and were given healthy foods to take home. One of those groups group also received daily capsules of probiotics containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium while the other group got dummy capsules. A third group received dummy capsules and no nutrition counseling. The women kept popping the capsules until they stopped breastfeeding, up to 6 months post-pregnancy.
At the end of the study 25% of the women who had been given the probiotics and received diet advice had excess belly fat compared to about 40% of the women who received nutrition counseling alone or neither intervention. Intriguing!
I've been taking a daily probiotic capsule every day for years and while I can't 'prove' the benefits, I do believe it has improved my digestive health, bolstered my immune system and improved my skin.
As for why probiotics may help weight control, scientists think that the type and amount of "good" and "bad" bacteria in your digestive tract may play a role in how many calories you absorb and how your body handles them. For the average American, even a 1% decrease in calorie absorption can snowball into a two pound weight loss per year.
That might not sound like much, but it's a big deal considering that most adults gain about 2 pounds per year. That means if you're 150 pounds at age 25, you're likely to be 170 at 35 and 190 at 45. Could popping one capsule a day prevent that trend? We can't be sure but probiotics do offer other health benefits.