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The latest national health statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly 40% of U.S. adults are obese today. Obesity rates among adults have doubled since the 1980s – and among children, they’ve tripled.
From examining what we eat to how much we exercise, scientists have looked at a number of factors to determine what is driving these startling statistics. Given that probiotics play a role in metabolism, an intense area of interest has been to better understand the relationship between the gut microbiome – the collection of bacterial species that reside in the digestive tract – and obesity.
Based on over a decade of research, researchers have established a solid link between obesity and the gut microbiome, suggesting that this internal ecosystem plays a fundamental role in weight management.
So compelling is the research that scientists at Mass General Hospital are conducting a study to test whether pills containing small amounts of human feces from thin donors can help obese individuals lose weight!
Scientists have learned that beneficial bacteria that line the digestive tract not only help to breakdown food and manufacture vitamins, but influence many aspects of weight management including metabolism, appetite control and even cravings. For example, gut bacteria can manipulate hormones that regulate appetite, which in turn determines how quickly you become satiated, or feel full after consuming a meal.
Other key research findings regarding the gut microbiome and obesity include the concept of diversity, the impact of exercise, the existence of “lean” vs. “obese” gut bacteria, changes in gut bacteria after gastric bypass surgery, and the influence of diet (pattern of eating), artificial sweeteners and antibiotics on gut flora.
People with large and diverse bacterial populations in their digestive tracts tend to be less prone to obesity than people with diminished microbial diversity. Research has shown that a diverse gut microbiome is associated with being lean; and that those with low bacterial diversity are more likely to be overweight, in addition to having insulin resistance (a precursor to type 2 diabetes) and higher cholesterol levels.
Unfortunately, our microbiome is becoming increasingly less diverse which may explain in part the rise in obesity. Known as the “disappearing microbiota hypothesis”, scientists speculate that modern health practices such as bottle-feeding and Caesarean section delivery, plus lowered exposure to “germs” early in life coupled with the overuse of antibiotics and the Western diet are contributing factors to reduced microbial diversity.
Results from a small 2014 study provide evidence for a beneficial impact of exercise on gut microbiota diversity. Researchers compared the gut microbiome of male athletes to non-athlete normal weight men and overweight men of the same age. The athletes had a significantly greater variety of gut microbiota, showing much higher proportions of 48 microbial types than the high-BMI men and of 40 microbial types than the normal-BMI men.
Research has accumulated evidence that certain types of bacteria living in our gut may predispose us to weight gain, particularly when consuming a sugary, high-fat Western-style diet. In a 2009 study of twins published in the journal Nature, when bacteria was extracted from an obese human twin and introduced to the digestive systems of lean mice, the animals became fat. When bacteria from the thin twin was introduced to lean mice, the mice remained slim.
The difference between obese and lean people’s microbiomes partly reflects their food choices. Multiple studies have shown that a typical Western diet which is high in fat and simple carbohydrates yet low in fiber encourages a type of “obese” bacterial group (Firmicutes) to overpopulate the GI tract. Conversely, a diet high in plant-based foods and fiber encourages a type of “lean” bacterial group (Bacteriodetes) to thrive in the digestive tract. Researchers learned that “obese” bacteria are more efficient at extracting and storing calories from the foods we eat than their “lean” counterparts.
In those who are morbidly obese, gastric bypass surgery offers a solution by reducing the size of the stomach and intestines. Research has shown that patients who undergo this surgery lose weight not only because of reduced food intake but because the procedure radically alters their gut bacteria.
A 2014 study suggests that artificial sweeteners raise blood sugar levels and promote metabolic syndrome by modifying gut bacteria. Results showed that those who ate and drank foods with artificial sweeteners had a different gut bacterial makeup than those who did not. In mice given artificial sweeteners, their gut bacteria shifted to types associated with obesity and that are more efficient in extracting calories from food that is consumed.
Antibiotics have been proven to make farm animals gain weight and there’s evidence they fatten people, too. States where people take the most antibiotics also have more obese people. A 2014 study found that early dose of antibiotics in young children may influence metabolism and lead to later-life obesity.
Following a nutritious diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, and unsaturated fats plus getting regular exercise, is an ideal way to lose stubborn pounds and maintain an ideal weight.
But, taking a probiotic for weight loss can also help you lose weight and belly fat.
After analyzing over 25 studies, a 2016 review showed that probiotics promote weight loss and reduce BMI. Weight loss was enhanced especially in those who were overweight (BMI 25.0 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of >30.0) when more than one kind of probiotic was taken and the probiotic was ingested for at least 8 weeks.
When selecting a probiotic for weight loss, it makes sense to supplement with a probiotic that weight loss studies show supports a reduction in body weight, body fat mass and waist circumference. These include species from both the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families:
A 2016 study demonstrated that in overweight and obese adults, supplementing with a B. lactis probiotic with fiber for 6 months, controlled body fat mass especially in the abdominal area. The B. lactis supplement (with or without fiber) also reduced waist circumference and food intake compared with a fiber only supplement.
In a 2015 study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science, researchers observed that adults taking a B. breve supplement, had a lower fat mass compared to a placebo group at week 12. The research conducted on 52 adults with BMIs that were moderately high, received either the B. breve probiotic or a placebo for 12 weeks. By study’s end, those who took the probiotic experienced a decrease in body fat mass of 2.2 pounds, compared with both placebo and baseline.
Research in 2013, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that a strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped obese women to achieve sustainable weight loss. The study participants underwent a 12-week weight-loss diet followed by a 12-week period that aimed to maintain the loss. Throughout, half took two pills each day, with one group taking the probiotic supplement and the other a placebo. Women who took the L. rhamnosus probiotic experienced a higher mean weight loss at 24 weeks than controls and continued to lose body weight and fat mass during the following 12-week weight-maintenance period.
Findings from a 2013 study in over 200 healthy adults with abdominal obesity, demonstrated that consumption of a Lactobacillus gasseri probiotic, at doses as low as 100 million CFUs per day, exhibited a significant lowering effect on abdominal adiposity, and suggested that constant consumption might be needed to maintain the effect.
In a small 2013 study, obese, hypertensive adults on a 1,500 calorie a day diet supplemented with a L. plantarum probiotic for three weeks. Supplementing with the probiotic helped to reduce BMI and blood pressure in the treatment group, both recognized symptoms of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of metabolic conditions that occur together and are associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes).
Whether your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance, look for a probiotic supplement that is formulated with “lean” probiotic species, ensures delivery of the beneficial microbiota to the digestive tract and is shelf-stable.
Choose a probiotic like LeanBiotics Probiotic Pearls, that is formulated with bacterial species that studies show a weight management benefit. LeanBiotics is formulated with L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. gasseri, B. lactis and B. breve to support a healthy weight plus B. infantis to promote bacterial diversity. This probiotic supplement also includes inulin, a type of fiber which feeds the beneficial species, promoting their growth.
Live probiotic cultures need to survive the harsh conditions of the stomach, allowing them to reach the intestines. When looking for a probiotic for weight loss, select a supplement that protects the organisms through their transit. LeanBiotics Probiotic Pearls uses BIO-tract® Delivery Technology. This patented technology shields beneficial bacteria from stomach acid and gently releases live organisms over time to the upper and lower intestinal tracts for optimal effectiveness.
Probiotic supplements lose their potency when exposed to air, moisture, heat or light. The dried probiotic organisms are activated when hydrated, and once that occurs, they quickly expire, making shelf-life and viability through the time of consumption critical for a quality, effective product. LeanBiotics Probiotic Pearls uses a patented LiveBac® process to extend probiotic shelf life far beyond other supplement forms, even at room temperature.
Each day, we learn more about how the microbes in our digestive tract influence all aspects of weight including metabolism, appetite, and cravings. Based on a wide body of research, scientists have learned that the composition of our gut microbiota is a factor that determines whether we are obese or lean.
The good news is that you can favorably alter the number and type of bacterial species that reside in your digestive tract to a more “lean” type by modifying your diet and lifestyle.
Follow a healthy diet that features fiber (from fruits and vegetables) to feed the beneficial species. Aim to get 25-30 grams of fiber each day; and if you’re not getting this much, take a fiber supplement. Eliminate using artificial sweeteners and use added sugars sparingly.
Boost your beneficial bacteria by consuming probiotic-containing foods like yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables. Maintain a strong, diverse gut microbiome by engaging in physical exercise each day.
Replenish your beneficial bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement that is formulated with a wide variety of species that research has shown support a healthy weight and metabolism.
Refrain from using antimicrobial soaps and washes. And, take antibiotics only when necessary and for a bacterial (not a viral) infection.
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