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Probiotics are bacteria found in a variety of foods that support microbes in the small and large intestines. According to Medical News Today, when you eat foods containing probiotics, such as cheese, yogurt and kefir, you support the growth of beneficial microbes that help digestion and immunity. Other foods, such as spices, red wine, tea, berries, apples and beans, encourage probiotics in diary products to multiply even further. Probiotic bacteria may boost the body's ability to burn fat and could play a role in treating and preventing obesity.
Types of Probiotics
The term probiotic means вЂњfor life,вЂќ and probiotic bacteria are identified and named according to three characteristics -- genus, species and strain. According to the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, key human probiotics include the genera Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, Bacillus, and Saccharomyces. Besides yogurt, other probiotic-carrying foods include juices, cereal, cheese, fermented and unfermented milks, smoothies and nutrition bars.
Effect on Belly Fat
Research studies are currently underway to evaluate the health benefits of probiotics. For example, research sited in Medical News Today and "Microbial Cell Factories" suggests that the presence of probiotics has an effect on how the body stores fat. Certain findings suggest that probiotics can be beneficial -- a 2010 study in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" found that the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri reduced abdominal visceral fat by almost 5 percent and abdominal subcutaneous fat by just over 3 percent. The study group that experienced a decrease in abdominal fat consumed 200 grams per day of fermented milk containing the probiotic over a 12-week period.
Effect on Weight Loss
The 2010 study found that the same group that showed improvements in body fat also had improvements in body weight and other measures. The findings include a decrease in body weight, body mass index, waist size and hip size by almost 2 percent each. In a different study published in 2011 by the "Annual Review of Nutrition," differences were found in the gut bacteria of lean and obese individuals. Study data suggested an inverse correlation between the amounts of gut bacteria and the presence of fat and other disorders - greater numbers of bacteria are associated with less development of body fat, diabetes and low-level inflammation associated with obesity.
Probiotics and Metabolism
Probiotics play an important role in food metabolism and are involved in the absorption of most nutrients in the small intestine and in the processing of undigested food in the large intestine. The large intestine completes digestion by absorbing additional nutrients, producing vitamins and creating waste products. Probiotics can help to maintain the levels of healthy bacteria in the gut to optimize the function of the digestive system, especially in overweight and obese individuals.