The analysis, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, combined data from 25 randomised trials testing the impact of probiotic consumption on body weight and BMI in more than 1,900 people.
Led by Qingqing Zhang from Taizhou People's Hospital, China, the team found taking probiotics reduced BMI and body weight – with the greatest reduction in BMI occurring in overweight adults.
"To date, quite a few researchers have investigated the effects of probiotics on body weight and BMI, without a consistent result," said Zhang.
“Based on our findings from the included 25 trials, we found that consumption of probiotics significantly decreased body weight and BMI by a modest degree,” the research team concluded – adding that a sub-group analysis also showed that consuming more than one type of probiotic and taking probiotics for eight weeks or more resulted in increased weight loss.
The team noted that although the amount of weight loss documented in the study is minimal, even a small reduction can have enormous public health benefits by reducing obesity-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
The team pooled data from 1,931 participants aged 18 years and over who took part in 25 trials investigating the efficacy of probiotic consumption for body weight and BMI reduction.
Pooled analysis showed that probiotic consumption significantly reduced body weight by 0.59 kg and BMI by 0.49 kg/m2, on average.
“A greater reduction in BMI was found with multiple species of probiotics,” said the team – noting that subgroup analysis of trials with intervention duration of more than 8 weeks also found a more significant reduction in BMI.
The team said that the number of probiotic species used in the included trials varied between the trials included in this meta-analysis, but that subgroup analysis of the 13 trials using more than one species of probiotics found a significant reduction in BMI compared with six trials using a single species of probiotics.
“Trials with multiple species of probiotics found a significant reduction of BMI by 0.65 kg/m2. Those trials using single species of probiotics as the treatment did not show a meaningful reduction compared with control groups,” they revealed.
Zhang and colleagues noted that a 2014 meta-analysis looking at the effect of probiotics and blood pressure also found a greater impact of multiple species of probiotics for the control of blood pressure.
“In conclusion, this meta-analysis showed that probiotic consumption could reduce body weight and BMI significantly,” wrote the Chinese team – who added that the findings could “make a significant contribution to the application of probiotics as novel therapies in overweight and obesity.”
Source: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
Volume 67, Issue 5, Pages 571-580, doi: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1181156
“Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials”
Authors: Qingqing Zhang, et al