Mayo Clinic Q and A: Probiotics, gut bacteria and weight — is there a connection?

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I’ve read some research that indicates one possible contributing factor to obesity is the balance of bacteria in a person’s gut. In someone who is obese, is it possible to right that balance by taking a probiotic supplement, such as Lactobacillus gasseri, in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise?

ANSWER: It is true that the gut bacterial population in people who are obese is different from the population in people who are lean. Whether this difference contributed to obesity, however, or is a consequence of obesity is unknown. The research on this subject so far hasn’t yielded clear answers. Although taking a probiotic is unlikely to cause harm, it may not help fight obesity.

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