Become a pro at probiotics

Dr Suzanne Pearson
September 21, 2016

Thoughts of bacteria generally conjure up stomach-twirling memories of a chicken dish in some dodgy restaurant but these single‑celled microorganisms are beneficial to our health and wellbeing. True story.

How that works is probiotics – aka the friendly bacteria that live in your gut. Apart from your insides, you can also find them hanging out in some foods (yoghurt and fermented food to name drop a few) and supplements.

These wellbeing wingmen are best known for supporting digestive health but have recently attracted the science spotlight for their long list of other health benefits. Here goes…

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Join the culture club

Probiotics are not only gut‑friendly but waist‑friendly too. A recent meta-analysis* published in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that consumption of probiotics significantly decreased body weight and body mass index (BMI; a measure of body fat based on height and weight).

Researchers pooled data from 25 trials involving more than 1,900 people. What’s more, a greater reduction in BMI was found with multiple species of probiotics and with interventions of more than eight weeks. Although the amount of weight loss was minimal, even a small amount can reap mega health benefits.

 

The surprising benefits of probiotics

Australian researchers also found similar modest effects of probiotic consumption on reducing blood pressure. Results published in Hypertension included data from nine studies and more than 500 people. The effect was similar to those reported in a meta‑analysis of salt reduction of <2 g per day and resistance training. Serious gains.

These happy helpers may also improve your mood. A recent systematic review and meta‑analysis published in Nutrients found that probiotics significantly reduced depression. The analysis included results from five randomised, controlled studies and saw an effect in both a healthy population and those who were depressed. Gives another meaning to gut feeling.

 

Fun fact: Your body has about 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells

While probiotic selection and dosing are not the same in all conditions, and the beneficial effects of each probiotic strain can’t be generalised across all treatments, these hardworking microbes do your body a whole lot of good.

*A meta‑analysis uses statistics to combine results from multiple studies

 

Dr Suzanne Pearson PhD, MNutrDiet, APD, BSc (Hons) is the Global Scientific & Medical Affairs Manager at Swisse Wellness

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