Impact of bacterial probiotics on obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease related variables: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

BMJ Open. 2019 Mar 30;9(3):e017995. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017995.


Objective: To systematically review the effect of oral intake of bacterial probiotics on 15 variables related to obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: Medline, EMBASE and COCHRANE from 1990 to June 2018.

Eligibility criteria: Randomised controlled trials (≥14 days) excluding hypercholesterolaemia, alcoholic liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and children <3 years.

Results: One hundred and five articles met inclusion criteria, representing 6826 subjects. In overweight but not obese subjects, probiotics induced improvements in: body weight (k=25 trials, d=-0.94 kg mean difference, 95% CI -1.17 to -0.70, I²=0.0%), body mass index (k=32, d=-0.55 kg/m², 95% CI -0.86 to -0.23, I²=91.9%), waist circumference (k=13, d=-1.31 cm, 95% CI -1.79 to -0.83, I²=14.5%), body fat mass (k=11, d=-0.96 kg, 95% CI -1.21 to -0.71, I²=0.0%) and visceral adipose tissue mass (k=5, d=-6.30 cm², 95% CI -9.05 to -3.56, I²=0.0%). In type 2 diabetics, probiotics reduced fasting glucose (k=19, d=-0.66 mmol/L, 95% CI -1.00 to -0.31, I²=27.7%), glycated haemoglobin (k=13, d=-0.28 pp, 95% CI -0.46 to -0.11, I²=54.1%), insulin (k=13, d=-1.66 mU/L, 95% CI -2.70 to -0.61, I²=37.8%) and homeostatic model of insulin resistance (k=10, d=-1.05 pp, 95% CI -1.48 to -0.61, I²=18.2%). In subjects with fatty liver diseases, probiotics reduced alanine (k=12, d=-10.2 U/L, 95% CI -14.3 to -6.0, I²=93.50%) and aspartate aminotransferases (k=10, d=-9.9 U/L, 95% CI -14.1 to -5.8, I²=96.1%). These improvements were mostly observed with bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium breve, B. longum), Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus and lactobacilli (Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. delbrueckii) containing mixtures and influenced by trials conducted in one country.

Conclusions: The intake of probiotics resulted in minor but consistent improvements in several metabolic risk factors in subjects with metabolic diseases.

Trial registration number: CRD42016033273.

Keywords: bifidobacterium; diabetes; lactobacillus; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; obesity; probiotics.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Probiotics / pharmacology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome