Probiotics are getting a lot of attention for helping to regulate your digestive system. But can adding them to your diet have weight-loss benefits?

According to, Probiotics, is “friendly bacteria,” and is touted as an aid in improving immunity and managing digestion, but whether they have a significant role in weight loss is still up for debate.

Probiotics and Weight Loss: The Debate

“Recently the research world has been buzzing about how probiotics may help with weight loss,” said Amy C. Brown, PhD, RD, associate professor in the department of complementary and alternative medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

The theory is that probiotics may affect the way that energy (calories) is digested and therefore could help regulate the process by which energy can be used by the body, including becoming fat.

Brown recommends caution in the face of any such research: Probiotics are not magic diet pills, and they definitely do not give you license to stop counting calories or following your diet.

“I can tell you that the very minute those minor changes probiotics cause in relationship to metabolic pathways related to obesity occur, they will be immediately wiped out with an extra spoonful or sip of anything containing calories,” she said. “In fact, a sugary yogurt could have more calories than probiotic benefit.”

The Health Benefits of Probiotics

The recommendation to include probiotics in a healthy diet dates back to the 1930s. Probiotics can be used to help:

Diarrhea from infection, food poisoning, or antibioticsTreat urinary tract infectionsPrevent or treat yeast infectionsIrritable bowel syndromeInflammatory bowel diseaseEczemaReduce the risk of bladder cancer returningProtect against colon cancerImprove the immune system 

The Risks of Excess Probiotics

Researchers do not yet know how safe it is to eat a lot of probiotics. Some people experience gas or bloating as a reaction to these organisms.

“Probiotic research is in its infancy. It’s difficult to tell what would happen if you introduce a large amount of a certain bacteria through dietary supplementation,” Brown said, adding that probiotics have to be kept refrigerated. Many people unknowingly buy inactive supplements that haven’t been handled correctly.

How to Include Probiotics in Your Diet

While probiotics are available in supplement form, Brown emphasizes that it is best to get them from your diet if possible. Try:

Dairy products with live cultures, such as yogurt and buttermilkMiso soup, which is made from fermented soybean pastePoi, fermented taro root pasteNatto, fermented soy beansTempeh, caked fermented soybeansSauerkraut, fermented cabbageKombucha tea, fermented sweet tea brew 

As long as you keep counting calories, adding probiotics to your diet may be good for your health and your weight. Just remember that its chief benefit may be more geared toward your well-being rather than your weight loss.