The greatest buffer against the ageing process is to keep physically and mentally strong. Achieving a healthy weight, looking after your heart and supporting your mental health can help you to achieve these goals. Naturally, ticking every box requires a multi-faceted approach, but taking probiotic supplements can provide support in all these areas.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that, when ingested, provide numerous health benefits.
They’re usually made up of bacteria and each group and strain of bacteria supports a different function.
Take one the most common groups – Lactobacillus.
This probiotic strain appears to aid weight loss, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
In one study in 210 people with central obesity, which is characterised by excess belly fat, taking the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri daily resulted in an 8.5 percent loss of belly fat over 12 weeks.
When participants stopped taking the probiotic, they gained the belly fat back within four weeks.
Evidence also suggests that Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis (the common probiotic strain) can assist with weight loss and obesity prevention, though this needs more research.
A number of large studies have shown that certain probiotics may be able to lower blood cholesterol, particularly in people with high cholesterol levels.
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High levels of LDL cholesterol – a waxy substance found in your blood – can raise your risk of heart disease.
According to one review, Lactobacillus probiotics significantly reduced both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
The review also found that two types of Lactobacillus probiotics, L. plantarum and L. reuteri, were particularly effective in reducing cholesterol levels.
In one study of 127 people with high cholesterol, taking L. reuteri for nine weeks significantly lowered total cholesterol by nine percent and LDL cholesterol by 12 percent.
Total cholesterol is a measure of the total amount of cholesterol in your blood, consisting of both “good” and “bad” forms of cholesterol.
Certain probiotic strains have also been shown to alleviate depression, although the studies are small.
Results of a small study suggest the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 may improve quality of life and reduce symptoms of depression in people with irritable bowel syndrome.
In another study, people with major depression took a probiotic supplement containing three bacteria strains for eight weeks.
At the end of the study, most had lower scores on the Beck Depression Inventory, a common method of evaluating depression symptoms.
Furthermore, a research review looking at how probiotics affect symptoms of depression found that taking a daily probiotic supplement seemed to help with symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
Probiotics also seemed to work best when used in conjunction with other treatments, including medication and psychotherapy.
The authors of each of these studies generally agree that larger trials are needed to further explain how probiotics can affect symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.
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