Are Probiotics and Prebiotics Good for Weight Loss and Treating Obesity?

Heather Campbell
 min read

Are probiotics and prebiotics good for weight loss and treating obesity?

Are Probiotics and Prebiotics Good for Weight Loss and Treating Obesity?Numerous studies have shown a link between the gut microbiota and a person’s body weight.

As a whole, the microbiota of obese people is different from that of thinner people. Some prebiotics and probiotics can help fight against obesity and overweight by balancing out an individual’s microbiota, in addition to a lifestyle that incorporates healthy eating and physical exercise.

Prebiotics, like probiotics, can modulate the balance of the intestinal flora and have a role to play in preventing obesity and overweight.

Read on to uncover the role of probiotics and prebiotics on people suffering from obesity or overweight.

Are probiotics and prebiotics good for weight loss and treating obesity? Introduction

The possibility of sequencing the genome (i.e., the DNA) of the bacteria that make up the intestinal microbiota has opened the door to numerous studies.

Indeed, it is now proven that the microbiota of obese people is different from that of thinner people. In 35% of cases, it would also be less diverse.

People with a poor microbiota (i.e., bacteria that are low in quantity and diversity) suffer more from the metabolic complications of obesity, such as diabetes, dyslipidemia, and fatty liver.

Related post: How Does Alcoholic Liver Disease Affect the Digestive System?

Consuming prebiotics and probiotics would have an impact on balancing our intestinal microbiota.

Indeed, a single syllable differentiates them: “pre” and “pro” biotics can often be a source of confusion.

It is interesting to note that prebiotics are actually natural fibers found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and grains. However, breast milk also contains it.

In other words, prebiotics are sugars that serve as food and fuel for the good bacteria in our digestive system and support their growth.

Probiotics, often found in dairy or fermented products, are micro-organisms that are beneficial to the health of our intestinal flora.

Abnormal microbiota may be a risk factor for obesity

Studies have identified an imbalance between two prominent families of micro-organisms:

  • Bacteroides which are in the minority
  • And the firmicutes that are surplus.

However, these allow more calories to be extracted from the food residues that reach the colon.

This imbalance seems to increase in people who gain more weight or, on the contrary, decreases in those who manage to lose weight.

In addition, low microbiota diversity can make the intestinal barrier less effective, allowing foreign bodies to pass more easily.

For example, lipopolysaccharides (compounds derived from the breakdown of certain bacteria in the gut) would be assimilated as is and activate the immune system.

The latter releases inflammatory compounds that reach the liver and promote the development of diabetes.

It is not known why an individual’s microbiota is depleted, but it seems that there is a link with diet. Studies on mice have shown that a high-fat diet reduces the diversity of gut micro-organisms.

Can bacteria cause obesity?

Several studies point to the bacteria in the intestinal flora as one of the factors responsible for obesity. Indeed, people who have a deficiency in intestinal bacteria would have a high risk of metabolic disruption, promoting weight gain.

There are many causes of obesity. Indeed, they are:

  • Partly environmental: with a sedentary lifestyle, too rich food, and too much of it.
  • And partly genetic.

According to scientific research, it could also be linked to genome variations, not of the person himself, but of the bacteria present in the intestinal flora. This gut microbiome may have an impact on obesity.

A study has distinguished between individuals with “rich” and “poor” intestinal flora.

By studying the microbiome of 295 individuals (both non-obese and obese), the researchers found that the number of microbial genes (and therefore the bacterial diversity) differed significantly between individuals.

The bacteria-deficient group was the one composed of more obese people.

Related postIrritable Bowel Syndrome and Gut Dysbiosis Effects on the Gut Microbiome

Specific foods to enrich the intestinal flora

Another study was conducted to determine the types of foods that can improve the richness of the intestinal flora. In fact, 50 obese or overweight adults were put on a high-protein, low-calorie, high-fiber diet for several weeks.

This diet improved the clinical characteristics of the individuals studied (such as weight loss, fat tissue, and metabolic parameters) and improved the initially poor intestinal bacterial communities.

The relationship between weight loss and increase in bacterial richness allows us to affirm that all the clinical signs linked to obesity could be corrected or prevented by early detection of the alteration of the microbiota and by adapted nutritional recommendations.

Preventing obesity by rebalancing the microbiota

Following a weight-loss diet could help restore greater microbiota diversity.

A study was conducted on fifty overweight or obese volunteers who followed a low-fat diet for one and a half months but enriched with fiber, protein, and carbohydrates.

The results showed that they lost weight and body fat. The subjects whose microbiota was depleted also saw an increase in the variety of their intestinal bacteria.

In addition, blood glucose, blood lipid levels, and markers of inflammation were reduced. But the results were less marked in subjects with a low basic microbiota diversity.

Bariatric surgery also appears to significantly alter and enrich the microbiota. Among the reasons cited were:

  • A change in the diet of those who have undergone surgery, who often suffer from disgust (especially of meat).
  • And a less acidic digestive pH that will favor microbial pullulation.

Prebiotics help prevent obesity

Instead of letting obesity take hold, it would be ideal to prevent it for those predisposed to it.

Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds, such as fibers or carbohydrates not digested by human enzymes assimilated to fibers.

These will modulate the composition and/or the activity of the intestinal microbiota via their degradation by the micro-organisms of the intestine.

Studies show that in obese people, the administration of fructans (prebiotics from chicory root) or arabinoxylans (obtained from wheat bran) stimulates the production of hormones in the digestive tract that improve satiety or blood sugar levels.

This prebiotic supplementation also reduces fat mass and inflammation and the passage of lipopolysaccharides through the intestinal barrier.

In addition to these improvements, this research has also shown an increase in “good bacteria” within the microbiota, enhancing the gut’s barrier function.

It is possible to find prebiotics naturally in food. Fructans are found in garlic, shallots, onions, artichokes, asparagus, dandelions, leeks, and Jerusalem artichokes.

Probiotics against obesity and overweight

Probiotics are micro-organisms that arrive alive in sufficient proportion in the intestine to benefit health.

Probiotics can be ingested in the form of food (often through fermented milks), food supplements, or medicines.

Several studies have been conducted to investigate the benefits of probiotics on people who are overweight or obese. Research was done on overweight adults and resulted in weight loss. Weight loss was achieved without caloric restriction.

Other studies involving volunteers who ingested probiotics while following a low-calorie diet showed that the subjects lost more weight than those who simply followed the diet.

The results also showed that weight loss is accompanied by a reduction in body fat and waist circumference (the larger the waist circumference, the greater the risk of cardio-metabolic complications).

Good to know: another study was conducted on people who had bariatric surgery. Result: those who received probiotics lost the most weight.

Research has also been conducted on pregnant women at different stages of pregnancy, and other studies have been continued until the end of breastfeeding:

  • One of these studies showed that the incidence of gestational diabetes could be reduced by taking probiotics.
  • In another, women who received probiotics had less fatty tissue in the abdomen 6 months after giving birth.
  • And in another study, pregnant women were given probiotics during their last 4 weeks of pregnancy. As a result, their children also benefited until the age of 6 months.

Are probiotics and prebiotics good for weight loss and treating obesity? Conclusion

Obesity and overweight harm the well-being and health of those affected. Some prebiotics and probiotics can help fight against obesity and overweight.

The question now is which ones and for whom they might be beneficial. Studies have already shown that some probiotics seem to have a favorable effect on overweight individuals.

Probiotics and prebiotics are good for weight loss and treating obesity. However, it is advisable to also have a healthy lifestyle consisting of a healthy and balanced diet combined with physical activity to avoid overweight and obesity.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More