Probiotics and Weight Loss

Probiotics and Weight Loss: How Digestive Baceria Can Actually Help People Lose Weight
By: Pamela Egan, NP-C, CDE, ABAAHP

When supplement marketers attempt to explain to the public the value of probiotics, the discussion typically centers around the fact that probiotics can help to establish a regular pattern of bowel movements, helping to relieve diarrhea, curb constipation and establish a happy medium that constitutes something of a middle-ground – that point when bowel movements occur neither too frequently nor too infrequently, with the consistency being neither too hard nor too soft, minimizing the amount of discomfort one experiences in using the facilities.

Another benefit of probiotics, the good bacterial flora long associated with natural, unprocessed yogurt, with which the public is well familiar is the strengthened immune system that typically accompanies a healthy gut. However, a less noted side-effect of one’s digestive system functioning at peak performance is that a healthy gut can actually help one lose weight and keep off the pounds.

Antibiotics wipe out the good bacterial flora in the gut (intestinal tract) which slows down the metabolism, resulting in fewer calories burned relative to the amount of calories ingested. This results in unnatural weight gain.

In addition, the animals are fed estrogen supplements, which causes them to develop a condition known as estrogen dominance, which also brings about a hefty degree of unnatural weight gain. Hence, hormone balance is essential for weight loss, as is metabolic efficiency.

With regard to the latter, there is actually a quite simple solution for humans who have either been on antibiotics, ingested them indirectly via other food sources (such as beef) or for whatever other reason have an imbalance of intestinal flora inside the digestive tract. High-quality probiotics can actually help to restore the balance of what are often referred to as “good bacteria”. This helps aide digestion, which when combined with routine exercise and at least a somewhat healthy diet results in an enhanced rate-of-metabolism.

This enhanced metabolism typically helps bring about weight loss in overweight individuals provided the average amount of caloric intake were to remain constant from the time period prior to the balancing of intestinal flora to the point at which optimal bacterial flora levels are reached.

The math is really pretty simple: Calories, excess amounts of which are stored as fat, are ingested as food and calorie-containing beverages. Calories also power the human body (as well as all other animal life). The amount of calories stored as fat depends upon a couple of factors: 1) The amount of calories ingested; 2) The rate at which the calories are being burned as fuel; and 3) The amount of time unburned calories remain inside the body prior to being expelled in the form of waste (feces). By reducing the amount of time calories remain in the body from the time they are consumed to the time they are expelled, there is less time for them to be absorbed and stored in the form of fat.

The bottom line is that while probiotics are far from a miracle dietary supplement that will make you lose weight just by taking a little capsule, in conjunction with exercise, diet and hormonal balance, these healthy, all-natural bacteria can indeed help accelerate weight loss by regularing the digestive system, preventing constipation and helping one expel waste in a timely manner relative to the time-of-consumption.

The result is this: probiotics are not magic weight loss solution, but when implemented as part of a complete weight loss regimen that addresses all aspects of the metabolic cycle (caloric intake, rate-of-metabolism, hormonal balance and proper digestive function), can indeed help an overweight individual with poor digestive health lose weight and keep it off.

Related: Health Benefits of Probiotics

Children Becoming Obese at a Younger Age

Childhood Obesity is on the up-and-up, and children are becoming obese at a younger and younger age, this according to a study published in BMJ. A large group of children were observed for a ten year period. The results were an increase in both weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) in children ages one month to four years. Interestingly, no corresponding upward trend in the height of the children was observed during the study.

So what is Body Mass Index?

BMI is a relatively quick, inexpensive and fairly accurate method to calculate health risk as it relates to height and weight. A lengthy calculation is used, but now days there are charts and even websites that allow you to enter your height and weight to obtain an immediate result.

For adults between 19 and 70 years of age, a BMI of anywhere from 19 to 24.9 is considered a health weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, 30 to 39.9 is considered obese and over 40 is very obese. A BMI of less than 19 is considered unsafe and may represent malnourishment.

Although BMI was used in the study, for many years after its conception it was not commonplace for clinicians to calculate BMI on children and teens 19 years of age and under. That said, height and weight are measured at each and every medical check-up.

The study referenced above involved 43,000 children from England. The scientists recorded height and weight of infants ages 28 days to 90 days, and toddlers ages 35 months to four years. After calculating the latter group’s BMI, investigators applied the term “overweight” to those with a BMI above the 85th, and “obese” to those above the 95th percentile.

The proportion of overweight children increased substantially during the ten year period, from 14.7% to 23.6%. The percentage of obese children rose from 5.4% to 9.2%.

The infants did experience a slight increase in weight, however there was no increase in the number of infants whose weight exceeded the 85th and 95th percentile.

The investigators concluded that excessive weight gain in children occurred between infancy and preschool age, and that obesity prevention efforts should begin prior to preschool.

Weight Gain Could Persist Into Adulthood

William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that these increases in weight are likely to persist into adulthood. He expressed concern that Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise among children and adolescents, and that obesity increases their risk for cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Dietz called for a return to family mealtimes, promoting breastfeeding, encouraging physical play and discouraging sugary foods as a solution.
Intervention is necessary to thwart the rise in childhood overweight and obesity rates, which are now rising even among preschoolers.

Related: Female Weight Gain – Why Am I Gaining Weight?