Dietary alteration of the gut microbiome is an important target in the treatment of obesity. Animal and human studies have shown bidirectional weight modulation based on the probiotic formulation used. In this study, we systematically reviewed the literature and performed a meta-analysis to assess the impact of prebiotics, probiotics and synbiotics on body weight, body mass index (BMI) and fat mass in adult human subjects. We searched Medline (PubMed), Embase, the Cochrane Library and the Web of Science to identify 4721 articles, of which 41 were subjected to full-text screening, yielding 21 included studies with 33 study arms. Probiotic use was associated with significant decreases in BMI, weight and fat mass. Studies of subjects consuming prebiotics demonstrated a significant reduction in body weight, whereas synbiotics did not show an effect. Overall, when the utilization of gut microbiome-modulating dietary agents (prebiotic/probiotic/synbiotic) was compared to placebo, there were significant decreases in BMI, weight and fat mass. In summary, dietary agents for the modulation of the gut microbiome are essential tools in the treatment of obesity and can lead to significant decreases in BMI, weight and fat mass. Further studies are needed to identify the ideal dose and duration of supplementation and to assess the durability of this effect.
Keywords: gut microbiome; obesity treatment; probiotics; weight loss.