The uncomfortable paradox about probiotics : Probiotic-Foods blog

The uncomfortable paradox about probiotics

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 10/22/12

Probiotics help livestock fatten up quickly, yet it is claimed they help you lose weight.

How could anything making farm animals grow fat be supposed to help people lose weight? Several people have asked us at the IDPF ( ). People are right at being concerned with this contradicting message, which have persuaded some of them to stop consuming probiotics.

To solve this question, let’s start understanding why probiotics are given to livestock. Farm animals are exposed to extremely stressing conditions that inevitably affect their health, thus their development. Feeding on highly concentrated nutrients, unnatural feeding intervals, use of antibiotics as growth promoters and reduced animal mobility, among other factors, have a serious detrimental effect on the friendly microbial populations living in the animal’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Therefore, farm animals are given probiotics in an effort to help them keep an appropriate equilibrium in their GI microorganisms and, as a consequence, the animals will be in better shape to convert feed into biomass (meat) more efficiently. Also, probiotics can make certain nutrients more available during the digestion process, allowing young animals to grow at a higher rate. In conclusion, animals gain weight faster when they are given probiotics because they grow healthier, if they also get fatter; that is not a consequence of probiotics but it would be induced by a high calorie diet and the forced lack of mobility.

In your case, probiotics might help you regulate your GI function and modulate your immune system response, therefore, they will help you remain healthy too, but that should not be translated into weight gain. In addition, several probiotic strains can help in weight control through different mechanisms depending on the needs of each person. Outstanding examples of probiotics that can be used for this purpose are those able to produce conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in vivo, which can help converting adipose tissue into muscle mass.

If you eat a lot of those highly sweetened probiotic products currently found in the market and you are gaining weight, I would not be surprised but… would you put the blame on probiotics?


Macouzet, M; Lee, B.H; Robert, N. 2010. Genetic and structural comparison of linoleate isomerases from selected food-grade bacteria. J Appl Microbiol 109 :2128-2134.  

Macouzet, M. 2011. Probióticos; componente clave de la producción animal moderna. Claridades Agropecuarias, Mexico, 217:29-36.

Macouzet, M. 2012. Alternatives for communicating the health benefits of probiotics. Probiotic Intelligentsia 1(2):15-27


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Acerca del IDAP

Consumer Reliance Program (CRP)
​A legitimate and powerful approach to communicating the health benefits of probiotic foods to consumers. It can be adoped even in the absence of an approved health claim. 
Exemples de situations qui affectent l’équilibre du microbiote intestinal du chien : l’anxiété, le confinement, le changement de nourriture, la prise d’antibiotiques, l’exercice extrême et le sevrage. 
Macouzet (2015). Nourriture probiotique pour chiens. Probiotic Intelligentsia en français 4(1):14-27
Critical aspects of developing novel food products with probiotics. 
Probiotic Intelligentsia, 1(1):2012