SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) - In a study conducted at Stanford University, obese patients who took probiotics after undergoing gastric bypass surgery lost more weight than patients who had the surgery but did not take the supplements.
These findings were presented Tuesday during Digestive Disease Week 2008 by Dr. John M. Morton, during a session on the management of patients with obesity.
“We have better treatments for crack cocaine addiction than we do for obesity,” Dr. Morton asserted, “but there has been a real revolution with bariatric (obesity) surgery. It provides strikingly durable weight loss...As a result, blood pressures will normalize...We have seen diabetes cure rates of 82 percent, and this can occur within weeks of surgery.”
According to the World Health Organization: “probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit.” Most probiotics are bacteria similar to the type normally found the people’s guts, the “good” bacteria, which helps maintain a balance in the digestive tract and may confer natural protection against disease. The most common probiotics taken as supplements are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
The trial involved 44 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery and were randomly assigned to receive either 2.4 billion lactobacilli daily or no probiotic therapy for the next 6 months. Quality of life, hydrogen (H2) breath tests, vitamin B12 levels and weight were measured before surgery and at 3 and 6 months afterward.
At six months, the probiotic group had lower H2 breath tests, lower fasting insulin, lipoprotein A and triglyceride levels, and higher HDL cholesterol levels compared with the placebo group, although the differences were not statistically significant.
There was, however, a significantly greater improvement in quality of life in patients taking probiotics compared with those taking placebo.
“What was surprising was that probiotic patients lost more weight after surgery,” Morton told Reuters Health. The study group lost 70 percent of their excess weight after 6 months compared with a loss of 66 percent of excess weight in controls.
He added, “This suggests that the cause of the weight increase may be bacterial...and may help explain the observation that fat people have fat friends...Some of it may be environmental and related to social factors, but it may also be related to high bacteria levels in some way.”
“We know that probiotics have to be live cultures and you have to (ingest) a minimum of two billion colonies a day,” Morton said. “We don’t know exactly which probiotic organisms are best and how much to recommended...The populations vary. They are different in the gut flora in different patient types.”
At the very least, probiotics are safe, Morton said. “There doesn’t seem to be any downside to taking them,” he added.