Probiotics are all over the internet and store shelves these days, and research shows that there’s a good reason why - there are a myriad of benefits to taking probiotics, that’s an indisputable fact. But do they help with weight loss or is that a gimmick that some supplement brands are using to get us to buy their products?

With weight loss being top of mind these days, we wanted to really dive in and get to the bottom of this question so we asked several industry experts including MDs and RDs to weigh in on whether or not taking a probiotic could result in weight loss.

In this article, we explored the relationship between probiotics and weight loss by examining the studies and research conducted so far and sprinkling in some real talk and reality from our experts who are working hard to ensure that quality, honest information finds its way into our lives in an attempt to drown out the noise of all the lofty claims we hear from supplement brands.

Will Probiotics Make You Lose Weight?

Yes, there appears to be a clinical correlation between probiotics and weight loss, however, more research is needed to fully understand it. Dr. Michael Njunge, Founder at shared that “Probiotics are a source of 'good bacteria' which help maintain your gut microbiome, aka the variety of bacteria in the gut. Think of them as different people in a city. When the inhabitants are 'good' and cooperate, then the city runs well and thrives.”

“These good bacteria are known to grant health benefits, such as producing key nutrients and improving your immune system, however, it is less clear whether they can help absolutely everyone lose weight.”

Taking a look at the current research, Dr. Njunge interpreted the following:

“Studies have shown that obese people have a less diverse and unbalanced microbiome compared to normal-weight people (1). More interestingly, obese people with a less diverse microbiome gain more weight compared to obese people with a healthy variety of gut bacteria (2).”

“A large meta-analysis that looked at 15 good-quality studies (957 subjects in total) found that across the data there was a "significant reduction in body weight and fat percentage compared with placebo". The average weight loss was 0.6kg (3).”

“There is also some evidence that the weight loss effect of probiotics is greater in women, with one study showing significant weight loss in women but not men (4).”

“With that said though there are also studies that show that probiotics have no effect. One meta-analysis concluded that, of the studies they looked at, there was "no significant effect of probiotics on body weight and BMI". However, the paper itself states that the data was low and more evidence is needed to draw a conclusion either way (5).

He wrapped up by reminding us that “no amount of probiotics will result in weight loss without fixing the fundamentals of good health: diet and exercise. Probiotics are a supplement, not a replacement for these. If you neglect diet and exercise then probiotics are unlikely to have any effect.” Which, as a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer myself, I cannot agree more. Probiotics are certainly not going to provide you with a magic weight loss elixir. You must have your foundational healthy habits firmly in place if you want to experience true, sustainable weight loss and overall health and wellness.

Kim Kulp, RDN and Owner of The Gut Health Connection chimed in to share that “research has shown that some probiotics can help reduce both weight and the size of your waist. For the best chance of effectiveness, it's important to choose the same specific strains used in the studies.”

Science shows that there are very specific strains that might result in weight loss, which is why it’s important to know which strains have been studied and to then find a probiotic supplement that contains those strains for your best chance at experiencing a reduction in weight as a result of taking a probiotic supplement.

So, Which Strains Have Been Clinically Shown to Produce Weight Loss?

According to Dr. Njunge, “The Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families of probiotics are the only families of cultures that have a decent amount of studies behind them to show they can help with weight loss.”

“Lactobacillus gasseri in particular has the strongest evidence for a weight loss effect and has been the most studied. There is some evidence also to show that Bifidobacterium cultures can result in weight loss. However, this is less well-studied as compared to Lactobacillus gasseri.”

“So I would caution readers against buying probiotics that do not feature Lactobacillus cultures, Lactobacillus gasseri, or Bifidobacterium. Other strains have little to no evidence behind them”, says Dr. Njunge

Kim Kulp broke down the specific probiotic strains that have been clinically shown to help with weight loss:

  • Lactobacillusacidophilus CUL60
  • Lactobacillusacidophilus CUL21
  • Lactobacillusplantarum CUL66
  • Bifidobacteriumbifidum CUL20
  • Bifidobacteriumanimalis subsp. lactis CUL34

Reading the label of a potential probiotic for weight loss option to ensure that it’s going to be at least mildly effective, make sure that the product contains at least one, preferably multiple, of the strains listed above.

How Do Probiotics Work For Weight Loss?

We’ve identified that clinical studies have shown that there are potential weight loss benefits when taking specific probiotic strains, but how does it work?

According to Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements, “The gut bacteria play many roles in weight regulation in both weight loss and weight gain. One primary reason is the bacteria's effect on appetite regulation. When gut bacteria is of the short-chain fatty acid production in the gut is amped up which triggers appetite hormone production. These hormones are typically those involved in increasing appetite and leading to weight gain.”

Additionally, probiotics help to keep your gut health in check, which equates to increased regularity, more productive bowel movements, and better nutrient absorption. For those who frequently suffer from gastrointestinal discomforts like bloating, constipation, and gas, a high-quality probiotic supplement can help to relieve and improve those conditions, which may result in a natural loss of weight.

How Long Does It Take For Probiotics To Work for Weight Loss?

The unsexy, but very honest and realistic answer to this question, as explained by Dr. Njunge is that “ss with all aspects of weight loss, it takes time. Most probiotic studies looked at weight loss over the 6 - 12 week timespan, so I would advise readers to take a long view.”

As a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer, I am always preaching to my clients and followers that healthy, sustainable weight loss is a long-term game. There’s no quick fix or easy button solution, and if you think you’ve found one, you’ll likely be sorely disappointed when you’re unable to maintain the method in which you achieved that weight loss and eventually add the weight right back on.

Additionally, probiotics, by nature, are the type of supplement that takes time to be effective. For those seeking the many benefits of taking a daily probiotic, they are encouraged to take the probiotic consistently for weeks, even months at a time before realizing the full benefits as it takes time for the good bacteria to build up in your system.

Regarding weight loss specifically, Kim Kulp offered that some studies “showed weight loss after 6 months, but some other smaller studies have shown benefits in as little as 12 weeks.”

The key? Time, patience, and ensuring that you’re taking the right combination of probiotic strains that are clinically appropriate for weight loss.

Do Probiotics Boost Your Metabolism?

According to Dr. Kenneth Brown, “there is some evidence to suggest that probiotics may have a positive effect on metabolism, but more research is needed to confirm this.”

 “For example, a study published in the journal Obesity found that people who took a daily probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus gasseri lost more weight and body fat over a 12-week period compared to those who did not take the supplement. Another study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that people who took a daily probiotic supplement containing Bifidobacterium animalis lost more weight and body fat over a 12-week period compared to those who did not take the supplement.”

“The more important factor is if you have a healthy microbiome (the 100 trillion organisms residing in your gut) and they are fed what they prefer, then molecules are produced that can speed up your metabolism. It is important to note that the human microbiome is complex and diverse, and different types of bacteria can have different effects on the body. It is also important to maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the microbiome to support overall health and well-being.  Generally, you want more Bacteroies to Firmicutes ratio which has been associated with weight loss.”

Dr. Njunge added that there is some early data that indicates that Lactobacillus cultures can do the following:

  • Limit the absorption of the fat consumed in our diet. This has the effect of reducing overall calorie intake as well as the amount of fat stored (7)
  • Release hormones that reduce your appetite. Lower appetite means you consume fewer calories and burn more calories (8)
  • Improve the biodiversity of your gut which is key for a strong and functional gut immune system. A better gut immune system means less gut inflammation, and therefore less inflammation-driven diseases such as obesity. (9)

Wrapping Up: Should You Try a Probiotic For Weight Loss?

Adding a high-quality, clinically-studied, and 3rd party tested probiotic to your daily supplement routine is a great way to improve your overall health and wellness and, for many, assist with your healthy lifestyle and weight loss efforts.

After speaking with several industry experts, it’s clear that more research is needed to make any definitive claims on whether or not probiotics help with weight loss. Still, it appears that the key lies in the specific strains present in the probiotic you choose. Some probiotic strains have shown a higher propensity for weight loss benefits than others, so choosing a probiotic that contains those strains will give you the highest chance of experiencing your desired results.

However, it’s important to remember that no probiotic (or any other supplement for that matter) should be a replacement for a healthy, active lifestyle. Instead, you should be looking to add supplements like a probiotic to your existing healthy lifestyle habits for the best results. Additionally, weight loss shouldn’t be your only draw to probiotics, keep in mind that a good probiotic can provide systematic health benefits that extend to your whole body.

FHM Recommendations For Probiotics For Weight Loss

The FHM team recommends Seed DS-01 Daily Synbiotic and Ritual Synbiotic+ as our top choices for probiotics for health and wellbeing. We highly recommend that you do your research and choose a probiotic supplement that’s in alignment with your health goals.

About the Author
Tami Smith, CPT, Nutritionist

Tami Smith is a certified Macro Coach, Nutritionist and an ACE certified fitness trainer, specializing in pre and post-natal fitness. She studied business and earned her bachelor's degree in Business Economics. Tami is a mom of two and women's health advocate. Her passion is to help people live a fit, healthy life through proper nutrition and exercise!

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