Live Cultures For Weight Loss – Do They Really Help?

Reviewed by Lamia A Kader, MD
featured image for article on live cultures for weight loss

Live cultures have become part of our everyday life. We eat fermented foods that contain live cultures such as yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, kimchi, pickles, some cheeses, and more. Many of us also take live culture supplements on a daily basis. But when it comes to live cultures for weight loss, do they really work? Let’s find out in this article!

Why Live Cultures are Good for the Body

Live cultures are microorganisms, a.k.a. good bacteria, known for their health benefits on the host. Regularly taking these live cultures help maintain a positive balance in the gut microbiota (1) and enhance our natural immunity and adjust pathogen-induced inflammation (2).

Moreover, they may also improve constipation problems (3), and have positive effects on allergies, gastrointestinal diseases, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcohol fatty liver disease (4). Lately, there has been an increase in the number of studies investigating the effectiveness and role of live cultures for weight loss.

Want to know which is the right live cultures for you? Here are 7 factors for choosing the best live cultures.

Mechanisms Involved in Live Cultures for Weight Loss

take probiotics not just for weight loss but for a healthy tummy too

A 2019 study tried to analyse some of the possible mechanisms explaining the association between gut bacteria and obesity. Researchers highlighted that gut microbiota is involved in obesity through hormones, metabolites and neurotransmitters that control food intake and regulation of energy balance, dietary carbohydrate fermentation, lipogenesis, and excess energy storage (5).

Research on the Association Between Live Cultures and Weight Loss

Some of you may wonder what kind of relation live cultures can have with weight loss since losing weight is mostly about getting a calorie deficit (calories consumed minus calories burned). However, there are studies showing that obese people have different gut microbiota composition compared to lean individuals. And fecal bacteria can play a role in modulating energy metabolism and body weight.

Study #1:

According to a 2018 review, several studies have reported that the live cultures effect on weight loss and metabolism is strain-specific and that only some of the species included in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera are effective (6).

Study #2:

In a 2010 study, researchers investigated the role of live cultures on abdominal adiposity, body weight and other measures in adults with obese tendencies. This study highlighted that the subjects who were supplemented with live cultures had a 4.6% and a 3.3% decrease in their abdominal visceral and subcutaneous fat, respectively. In addition, body weight was reduced by 1.4% and the body mass index (BMI) by 1.5% (7).

Study #3:

In 2013, a group of scientists from Switzerland and Canada studied the impact of live cultures supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese individuals for a period of 24 weeks. The study participants were divided into groups of men and women that were either taking Live Cultures or Placebo. During the first 12 weeks they were subjected to moderate energy restriction and on the remaining 12 weeks, they were on weight maintenance. Here’s a summary of their findings:

  • The mean weight loss in women in the Live Cultures group was significantly higher than in women in the Placebo group. But the results were almost similar amongst the men in both groups.
  • During the weight maintenance period, women in the Live Cultures group continued to lose body weight and fat mass. On the other hand, women in the Placebo group noticed weight gain and increase in fat mass. For the men groups, differences were not noted during the same period.
women may benefit more from live cultures for weight loss, but more studies need to be done to confirm

This particular study showed that there might be gender differences in the response to live cultures supplementation. BUT since it was only about one specific strain, we cannot generalize that all strains may benefit more women, and it is only one study claiming so (8).

Study #4:

The above-mentioned benefits provided by live cultures supplementation were confirmed in a 2016 review which reported that the manipulation of gut microbiota can be a strategy for obesity treatment. In this study, researchers mentioned that live culture therapy is safe and well tolerated with no adverse effects, and is appropriate for long-term use.

Moreover, the conclusion of this study highlighted that the modulation of gut microbiota by live culture treatment can play a positive role in body weight management, influence on glucose and fat metabolism, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce chronic systemic inflammation, all of which are common characteristics in obesity (9).

Study #5:

In 2019, a group of Chinese scientists conducted a systematic review on the potential role of live cultures in controlling excess weight in adults and its associated metabolic parameters. They found out that there was a significant weight reduction in the groups of participants who took live cultures. In addition, researchers noticed a significant reduction in fat percentage and fat mass in healthy adults. Findings regarding the group of diabetics also showed that supplementing with live cultures could improve glucose metabolism (10).

Study #6:

The beneficial role of live cultures for weight loss was also investigated by Dr. Heidi Borgeraas and her colleagues. They concluded that live cultures caused significant reductions in body weight and fat percentage compared to the placebo group. However, the effect of live cultures on fat mass wasn’t all that significant, perhaps due to the limited duration of interventions which ranged from 3 to 12 weeks. These results may improve with a longer period of supplementation (11).

Study #7:

In a 2019 published study, researchers investigated the interactive effects of supplementation and weight loss program on anthropometric and metabolic syndrome indices among overweight coronary artery disease patients. They reported that the weight loss diet plus live cultures supplementation resulted in superior results concerning the cardiovascular risk factors compared to the weight loss program alone (14).

Perinatal Live Cultures Supplementation and Child Body Weight

kids will also benefit from taking live cultures

A 2010 study evaluated the impact of perinatal live cultures supplementation on childhood growth patterns and overweight development during a 10-year follow-up. Researchers concluded that early gut bacteria modulation with live cultures play a role in the development and health of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first 12 months of life (12).

An Animal Study on Live Cultures

In addition to human studies that show important findings, there are also very promising animal studies that will soon be followed by similar human studies. For instance, a promising study showed that diet-induced obese mice supplemented with Bacillus live cultures were protected against metabolic disorders (13).

Final Thoughts on Using Live Cultures for Weight Loss

Lifestyle modifications such as diet, exercise and balanced sleep still remain the most important and effective therapies for obesity and related metabolic disorders. However, lifestyle modification results aren’t satisfying and obesity is still growing worldwide. According to the studies we’ve presented in this article, therapeutic interventions using live cultures may offer novel treatments for obesity. Some specific live culture strains such as the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera seem to be more effective than others. Further research is needed though to clarify all the live cultures species that are beneficial for weight loss.

Since live cultures for adults, women, and kids are safe, we can freely add them to our daily diet to promote our wellbeing and to provide our body the extra ingredient needed to achieve our weight loss goals. When live cultures are combined with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and quality sleep, you will manage to improve not only your body weight, but also experience a happier life!

References

(1) Kim, D., Yoo, S. and Kim, W., 2016. Gut microbiota in autoimmunity: potential for clinical applications. Archives of Pharmacal Research, 39(11), pp.1565-1576.

(2) Yan, F. and Polk, D., 2011. Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 27(6), pp.496-501.

(3) Dimidi, E., Christodoulides, S., Fragkos, K., Scott, S. and Whelan, K., 2014. The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(4), pp.1075-1084.

(4) Markowiak, P. and Śliżewska, K., 2017. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients, 9(9), p.1021.

(5) Mazloom, K., Siddiqi, I. and Covasa, M., 2019. Probiotics: How Effective Are They in the Fight against Obesity?. Nutrients, 11(2), p.258.

(6) Brusaferro, A., Cozzali, R., Orabona, C., Biscarini, A., Farinelli, E., Cavalli, E., Grohmann, U., Principi, N. and Esposito, S., 2018. Is It Time to Use Probiotics to Prevent or Treat Obesity?. Nutrients, 10(11), p.1613.

(7) Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., Imaizumi, K., Ogawa, A., Ikuyama, K., Akai, Y., Okano, M., Kagoshima, M. and Tsuchida, T., 2010. Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 64(6), pp.636-643.

(8) Sanchez, M., Darimont, C., Drapeau, V., Emady-Azar, S., Lepage, M., Rezzonico, E., Ngom-Bru, C., Berger, B., Philippe, L., Ammon-Zuffrey, C., Leone, P., Chevrier, G., St-Amand, E., Marette, A., Doré, J. and Tremblay, A., 2013. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(8), pp.1507-1519.

(9) Kobyliak, N., Conte, C., Cammarota, G., Haley, A., Styriak, I., Gaspar, L., Fusek, J., Rodrigo, L. and Kruzliak, P., 2016. Probiotics in prevention and treatment of obesity: a critical view. Nutrition & Metabolism, 13(1).

(10) Wang, Z., Xin, S., Ding, L., Ding, W., Hou, Y., Liu, C. and Zhang, X., 2019. The Potential Role of Probiotics in Controlling Overweight/Obesity and Associated Metabolic Parameters in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, pp.1-14.

(11) Borgeraas, H., Johnson, L., Skattebu, J., Hertel, J. and Hjelmesaeth, J., 2017. Effects of probiotics on body weight, body mass index, fat mass and fat percentage in subjects with overweight or obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Reviews, 19(2), pp.219-232.

(12) Luoto, R., Kalliomäki, M., Laitinen, K. and Isolauri, E., 2010. The impact of perinatal probiotic intervention on the development of overweight and obesity: follow-up study from birth to 10 years. International Journal of Obesity, 34(10), pp.1531-1537.

(13) Kim, B., Kwon, J., Kim, M., Park, H., Ji, Y., Holzapfel, W. and Hyun, C., 2018. Protective effects of Bacillus probiotics against high-fat diet-induced metabolic disorders in mice. PLOS ONE, 13(12)

(14) Moludi, J., Alizadeh, M., Behrooz, M., Maleki, V., Seyed Mohammadzad, M. and Golmohammadi, A., 2019. Interactive Effect of Probiotics Supplementation and Weight Loss Diet on Metabolic Syndrome Features in Patients With Coronary Artery Diseases: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine