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How Probiotics May Help You Lose Weight

Hypothetical Scenario

Jan is a 35-year-old marketing manager who leads a stressful life trying to juggle work, raising her 2 kids, and managing household responsibilities. Jan follows a Western diet and tends to snack on high fat foods when stressed. Jan has gained 5 kg of weight in the last 2 months and wants to alter her lifestyle to try and lose weight. The following write-up shows how probiotics may help Jan in her weight loss journey.


What is Gut Microbiota?

There are more than one thousand (1,000) bacterial species and approximately one hundred trillion (100,000,000,000,000) bacteria and archaea (microorganisms that are like bacteria) in the human gastrointestinal tract. These microbes are referred to as the gut microbiota (Lv, et al., 2019)

The gut microbiota in the human body consists of the following phylum (classification of bacteria):

Figure 1: Image of the Five (5) Different Phylum of Gut Microbiota.


The gut microbiota, present in the human intestines, impacts the absorption, breakdown, and storage of nutrients, which has an impact on human physiology (Gentile & Weir, 2018). Gut microbiota also plays a role in the brain and central nervous system, which may explain the influence gut microbiota plays on hunger and appetite (Lankelma, et al., 2015). Changes in the gut microbiome affects metabolic function and energy homeostasis, which may also contribute to weight gain (Guirro, et al., 2019).


Impact of Different Diets on Gut Microbiota

Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance of gut microbiota composition, that is caused by diet among other things (Turroni, et al., 2014). A healthy balance of gut microbiota may play a role in preventing or alleviating weight gain and metabolic diseases (John & Mullin, 2016).

In South Africa the Western diet is commonly followed by many households. The Western diet consists of high intakes of saturate fats and refined carbohydrates, and low intakes of plant-based foods (Jackman, 2020). Table 1 shows the changes in gut microbiota for some dietary patterns.

Table 1: Dietary Patterns and their Effects on Gut Microbiota.


Gut Microbiota Changes


Western Diet

  • Decrease in microbial diversity.
  • Increase in Firmicutes & Enterobacteriaceae.
  • Decrease in Bacteroidetes.

(Simpson & Campbell, 2015)

Mediterranean Diet

  • Increase in Bacteroidetes.
  • Increase in Clostridum clusters.
  • Decrease in Proteobacteria.
  • Decrease in Bacillaceae.

(Zhang, et al., 2018)

Vegetarian Diet

  • Increase in Bacteroidetes.
  • Decrease in Pathobionts.
  • Decrease in Bacteroidetes fragilis.

(Baothman, et al., 2016)

High Fibre Diet

  • Increase in Bifidobacteria.
  • Increase in microbial diversity.
  • Increase in Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio.

(Simpson & Campbell, 2015)

High Fat Diet

  • Decrease in Bacteroidetes.
  • Increase in Firmicutes.

(Baothman, et al., 2016)

High Protein Diet

  • Increase in microbial diversity (mainly with exercise).
  • Increase in bile tolerant microorganisms (Alistipes, Bilophila & Bacteroides).
  • Increase in Firmicutes (Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale & Ruminococcus bromii).

(Zhang, et al., 2018)



Link Between Probiotics and Weight Loss

Research by Ostberg, et al., 2015 and Mazloom, et al., 2019 have shown that use of probiotics reduces body mass index (BMI) and total body fat, specifically visceral fat. Wang, et al., 2019 showed that adults who received probiotics had significant reductions in waist circumference, body weight, fat mass percentage and BMI when compared with adults not taking probiotics.

Table 2 lists the results of some studies that were conducted to show the effects of probiotics on indicators of weight gain.


Table 2: Studies of Probiotics and their Results on Weight Loss

Subject of Study




Effect of probiotics on body weight & glycaemic control.

Decrease in BW, BMI, FM & insulin levels.

8-24 weeks

(Wang, et al., 2019)

Bifidobacterium & galacto-oligosaccharides

Decrease in inflammation & improvement in intestinal permeability.

3 weeks

(Krumbeck, et al., 2018)

Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron

Decrease in total FM and weight gain in HFD with probiotic

7 weeks

(Liu, et al., 2017)

Akkermansia muciniphila

Improvement of insulin resistance & metabolism

6 weeks

(Dao, et al., 2016)

Akkermansia muciniphila

Decrease in inflammation & body fat.

16 weeks

(Schneeberger, et al., 2015)

Mixture of Lactobacilli, Streptococcus & Bifidobacteria

Less weight & FM gain in HFD with probiotics

4 weeks

(Ostberg, et al., 2015)

Abbreviations: BW – Body Weight; BMI – Body Mass Index; DI – Dietary Intervention; FM – Fat Mass; HFD – High-Fat Diet


From the studies conducted, the following factors were observed as resulting in the greatest reduction in fat mass:

  1. High probiotic doses yielded better results over low doses.
  2. Multi-strain probiotics yielded better results over single strain probiotics.
  3. Probiotics administered in the form of foods yielded better results when compared with capsules or powders.


Probiotics Coupled with Good Diet

Qian, et al., 2019 completed a study where participants were randomly split into the following four (4) groups:

  1. High-fat diet
  2. Low-fat diet
  3. High-fat diet with probiotics (probiotics consisted of L. acidophilus, B. longum and E. faecalis)
  4. Low-fat diet with probiotics (probiotics consisted of L. acidophilus, B. longum and E. faecalis)

Results from the study showed that a low-fat diet with probiotics increased the microbial diversity of the participants when compared to the other groups.



A low-fat diet that is coupled with probiotic supplementation will result in greater weight loss when compared with diets that don’t contain probiotic supplementation. Although a high-fat diet is not ideal, probiotics show promise in slowing weight gain and may aid in weight loss.

Using the scenario at the beginning, a holistic approach to helping Jan would be to first help her reduce her stress levels (through working out, meditation, therapy, yoga etc.), such that she is snacking less. Next would be to change her Western diet to a more low-fat/high-fibre diet (consultation with a dietitian would yield the greatest results for this step). Lastly Jan should consider taking a probiotic that contains a diverse range of microbial strains to help reduce her stress, boost her weight loss journey, and regulate her gut microbiome.

To view our range of probiotics, click here.



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  3. Gentile, C. L. & Weir, T. L., 2018. The gut microbiota at the intersection of diet and human health.. Science, 362(6416), pp. 776-780.
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  8. Lankelma, J. M., Nieuwdorp, M., de Vos, W. M. & Wiersinga, W. J., 2015. The gut microbiota in internal medicine: implications for health and disease. Netherlands Journal of Medicine, 73(2), pp. 61-68.
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  11. Mazloom, K., Siddiqi, I. & Covasa, M., 2019. Probiotics: How Effective Are They in the Fight against Obesity?. Nutrients, 11(2), p. 258.
  12. Ostberg, K. L. et al., 2015. Probiotic supplementation attenuates increases in body mass and fat mass during high-fat diet in healthy young adults. Obesity, 23(12), pp. 2364-2370.
  13. Qian, L., Gao, R., Huang, J. & Qin, H., 2019. Supplementation of triple viable probiotics combined with dietary intervention is associated with gut microbial improvement in humans on a high‑fat diet. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 18(3), pp. 2262-2270.
  14. Schneeberger, M. et al., 2015. Akkermansia muciniphila inversely correlates with the onset of inflammation, altered adipose tissue metabolism and metabolic disorders during obesity in mice. Scientific Reports, Volume 5.
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The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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