Probiotics are foods or supplements containing the helpful bacteria that normally inhabit the human digestive tract, where they assist in completing digestion. Although they are usually marketed to support health of the gastrointestinal tract, a recent study performed in Canada suggests that taking probiotics can help women lose weight. The researchers noted that the intestinal flora of obese individuals differs from that of thin people, possibly because diets high in fat and low in fiber promote certain bacteria at the expense of others. For this study, they recruited 125 overweight men and women for a 12-week weight loss diet, followed by 12 weeks of weight maintenance. Throughout the study, half the participants took two pills daily containing a strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus while the others received a placebo. The upshot: women in the probiotic group lost 9.7 pounds compared to only 5.7 pounds among the women on the placebo (the men in both groups lost the same amount of weight, which the researchers couldn’t explain). During the maintenance phase, the women who received the probiotics continued to lose weight for a total loss of 11.5 pounds. The researchers also measured a decrease in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in women who took the probiotics as well as a decline in the concentration of the intestinal bacteria related to obesity.
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Angelo Tremblay et al, “Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women”, British Journal of Nutrition, 2013; DOI: 10.1017/S0007114513003875