The research is still nascent, but
a new study adds to a growing awareness that our bacterial communities may influence our weight.
A probiotic blended into a milkshake may help protect against weight gain, according to a small recent study published in the journal Obesity.
But first, some important caveats: the study tested a commercial product called VSL#3, and was funded by VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The sample size was small. Still, the findings add to growing evidence that probiotics and the gut microbiome may play a role in weight loss.
Past research has linked obesity and diabetes to imbalances in the microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria living in the gut. What we eat can shift our bacterial communities for better or for worse, and probiotics (0ften called “good bacteria”) are being investigated for their potential to support beneficial colonies.
In the new study, Virginia Tech researchers studied 20 healthy men who went on a high-fat and high calorie diet for four weeks. Some men also drank a milkshake that contained VSL#3, a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum, while others consumed a placebo milkshake. The researchers found that the men who consumed the probiotic mix had lower body mass gain and fat accumulation than those who didn’t.
The researchers suggest that the probiotic supplement might work for a number of reasons, and though they cannot determine a mechanism from their findings, they have some ideas. Overeating can quickly change microbiome communities, which makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients, they say. It’s possible that the VSL#3 helped alter the gut bacteria in way that influenced this system and led to less body fat accumulation. In addition, the researchers say that the probiotic may have reduced lipid absorption or impacted energy expenditure. . .