Probiotics for weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutr Res. 2015 Jul;35(7):566-75. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.05.008. Epub 2015 May 21.


The intestinal microbiota has been reported to be one of the potential determinants of obesity in recent human and animal studies. Probiotics may affect the gut microbiota to modulate obesity. This systematic review aims to summarize and critically evaluate the evidence from clinical trials that have tested the effectiveness of probiotics or foods containing probiotics as a treatment for weight loss. Literature searches of electronic databases such as PubMed, Cochrane Library, and EMBASE were conducted. Methodological quality was assessed using body weight and body mass index (BMI). Initial searches yielded 368 articles. Of these, only 9 met the selection criteria. Because of insufficient data, only 4 of the studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared the therapeutic efficacy of probiotics with placebo. The meta-analysis of these data showed no significant effect of probiotics on body weight and BMI (body weight, n = 196; mean difference, -1.77; 95% confidence interval, -4.84 to 1.29; P = .26; BMI, n = 154; mean difference, 0.77; 95% confidence interval, -0.24 to 1.78; P = .14). However, the total number of RCTs included in the analysis, the total sample size, and the methodological quality of the primary studies were too low to draw definitive conclusions. Thus, more rigorously designed RCTs are necessary to examine the effect of probiotics on body weight in greater detail. Collectively, the RCTs examined in this meta-analysis indicated that probiotics have limited efficacy in terms of decreasing body weight and BMI and were not effective for weight loss.

Keywords: Meta-analysis; Obesity; Probiotics; Systemic review; Weight control.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / drug therapy
  • Obesity* / microbiology
  • Probiotics* / therapeutic use
  • Weight Loss*