We don’t typically think of probiotics and weight loss together. Usually, when we hear or read about probiotics, we think of gut health. Probiotics are living organisms found in food (or supplements) that we introduce into our bodies to help promote the growth of “good” bacteria in our gut. By doing so, they support healthy digestion and help to replenish good bacteria while pushing out the bad.
As it turns out, probiotics might have a connection to your weight. Recent research has uncovered that taking probiotic supplements may lead to weight loss. However, the connection between probiotics and weight loss isn’t exactly linear.
In general, weight depends on how many calories you consume versus how many you burn (through both metabolic processes and physical activity). So if you eat more calories than you burn off, you gain weight. We know that your microflora could contribute to the development of certain medical disorders, but researchers are still trying to figure out just how probiotics may be able to help you lose weight.
The Connection Between Probiotics and Weight
There are several suggested hypotheses as to the relationship between probiotics and weight. Researchers believe it has to do with fermentation of fiber, triglyceride formation and fat storage (lipogenesis), and excess energy storage. But also pathways related to hormones, neurotransmitters, and other metabolites, especially those that are related to food intake and energy balance regulation.
What we do know is that the composition and diversity of bacteria in the gut is different among lean and obese individuals. Studies have shown that individuals with lower microbial diversity in their guts tend to have more fat tissue, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and inflammation.
Studies in mice have shown us that an obese mouse will actually lose weight through a fecal transplant, or in other words, a transfer of some of the gut microbiota from one mouse to another, if it receives gut bacteria from a lean mouse. This evidence alone shows us that there is a strong connection between our gut flora and our weight.
As a result, all of the current evidence suggests that increasing diversity of the gut bacteria may result in weight loss. One way to increase this diversity is thought to be through probiotics from food and/or supplements.
Advantages of consuming fermented foods or probiotic supplements for weight loss
To break it down even further, the connection between probiotics and weight loss may have to do with how changing the bacterial composition of your gut might change how you metabolize the nutrients in food.
Other research has shown that probiotics may actually help to decrease inflammation, maintain a proper blood sugar balance, and restore insulin sensitivity. This is important because inflammation is a precursor to many diseases and it may interfere with your ability to lose weight. An imbalance in blood sugar can lead to an overproduction of insulin (or insulin resistance), which may also negatively impact weight loss efforts.
One thing that is clear is that obese individuals can have a significantly different microbiome composition than lean individuals. So although we’re not sure of the exact mechanism of how consuming probiotics, either through food or supplements, may contribute to weight loss, the evidence that there is a connection is overwhelming.
Why probiotics from food is better
Let’s talk about how to actually get probiotics into your system. You can either get probiotics from food, or take supplements. Getting probiotics from food can be more challenging because you may need to do a bit of research, get to the grocery store, and figure out which foods you like and want to incorporate into your diet, instead of just swallowing a pill.
However, getting your probiotics from food instead has many advantages. For example, in addition to probiotics, you get macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fats, micronutrients, and even phytonutrients or antioxidants depending on the food. In addition, food helps protect all those little bacteria from getting destroyed by your harsh stomach acid.
Where to find probiotics
You can basically find probiotics in any type of fermented food, like yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and aged cheeses. To help you figure out which probiotic foods to get, wildbrine has put together a list of our top 8 probiotic foods so you can see which ones are our favorites and why.
At wildbrine, we make it easy for you to navigate the world of probiotics. For more inspiration, ideas, tips, and ways to dive deeper into the probiotic world, click here.