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Can beneficial bacteria influence our desire to eat?




Are you feeling hungry? The answer could lie in your gut microbiota. A new scientific review reveals how beneficial bacteria can influence feelings of hunger and satiety by regulating our appetite-related hormone. The research shows that taking regular probiotics supplements may support health conditions, which are linked to eating disorders.

It’s a startling thought that something as small as bacteria can have a mighty effect on the body and brain.  Yet, it’s fitting that bacteria are present throughout the gastrointestinal tract, and may influence satiety, desire to eat and the hormones that are involved in these processes.

Despite what is already known about this microbial mass, contemporary research is delving into the effect of the microbiome to influence the hormonal signalling for appetite. In particular to understand the effect on appetite regulation in response to supplemental bacteria, otherwise referred to as probiotics.

Investigating the role of probiotics and prebiotics on appetite

A volume of research has investigated the effects of probiotics, mainly Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium species, and synbiotics; probiotics with resistant fibres, upon the hormones that regulate appetite; : adiponectin and leptin.  Subsequently an analysis of studies was necessary to calculate the overall effect.  Therefore, results from 26 random controlled trials, with 1,536 participants were analysed.

Although no effect on adiponectin was reported in response to supplemental probiotics or synbiotics in healthy participants, a significant increase in adiponectin was reported for Type II Diabetic, Metabolic Syndrome and Prediabetic participants.  Which implies greater insulin sensitivity and improved blood glucose management, a desired outcome for the treatment of Type II Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.

Furthermore, a significant decrease in leptin was reported in response to both the supplemental probiotics and synbiotics. In fact, the studies that lasted 12 weeks or more had a greater decrease in leptin which may suggest that the effect is slow to occur.  Nevertheless, this shows that supplemental probiotics and synbiotics may decrease meal sizes via increased satiety and a ‘louder’ signal the stop eating.

These results already suggest a broad potential for probiotic and symbiotic interventions in various health conditions where appetite and nutrition (whether over- or undereating) are salient, alone or in combination with other nutritional, pharmaceutical or biotic approaches.”

  • Noormohammadi et al. 2023


This highlights the potential for probiotics, as a highly safe and well tolerated supplement, as a therapy for the hormonal regulation of appetite.  These findings have the potential to be wide reaching, not only into metabolic disorders but also obesity and the associated conditions.  A very exciting outcome for those working with, or diagnosed prediabetic, Type II Diabetic or with Metabolic Syndrome.

Author: Jenny Carson is a Nutritional Practitioner and Technical Services Manager at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Nutritional Science and is a Master of Research (MRES) in Public Health.


Morvarid Noormohammadi, Zeinab Ghorbani, Ulrike Löber, Marjan Mahdavi-Roshan, Theda U.P. Bartolomaeus, Asma Kazemi, Nargeskhatoon Shoaibinobarian, Sofia K. Forslund, The effect of probiotic and synbiotic supplementation on appetite-regulating hormones and desire to eat: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials, Pharmacological Research, Volume 187, 2023.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


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