A new study, led by Dr. Seong-Tshool Hong from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Institute for Medical Science, at Chonbuk National University Medical School in Jeonju (South Korea), showed that a free fatty acid-absorbing Lactobacillus strain reduced dietary fat absorption both in mice and humans, suggesting a potential treatment for obesity.

Recent research suggests that manipulating gut microbiota represents a novel approach to treating obesity, although long-term effects have not yet been studied in humans. Chung et al. studied whether the inhibition of free fatty acid (FFA) absorption in the human body by using a Lactobacillus mutant with enhanced capacity in absorption of FFAs would lead to the development of a safe therapeutic for obesity. Lactobacillus strains were isolated from faeces of healthy lean adult volunteers and those mutants that absorb FFAs strongly were selected. Screening of natural FFA-absorbing intestinal bacteria led to the isolation and characterization of intestinal FFA-absorbing Lactobacillus reuteri JBD301, named Lactobacillus JBD301. After confirming the ability of the mutants to remove FFAs in the gastrointestinal tract, the anti-obesity effects were demonstrated in rats by inhibition of body weight gain and body fat accumulation as well as amelioration of plasma lipid profiles under a diet-induced obesity condition for 22 weeks.

Administration of Lactobacillus JBD301 in the rats lowered the concentration of FFAs in the gut fluid content of small intestine, thus reducing intestinal absorption of FFAs by the host while increasing their faecal excretion. The diet-induced obese mice were administered the high-fat diet (HFD), the control diet, or the HFD supplemented daily with Lactobacillus JBD301 or Orlistat, the major FDA-approved drug for long-term use to treat obesity. Remarkably, in mice the efficacy of Lactobacillus JBD301 on body weight was similar to that of Orlistat.

Furthermore, a double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial in overweight or obese but otherwise healthy adults (25 £ body mass index < 35) was performed in order to investigate the safety and efficacy of Lactobacillus JBD301 for reduction in body fat or weight. The administration of Lactobacillus JBD301 at dose of 1 x 109 colony forming units (CFU)/day for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in body weight (n = 18) when compared to placebo group (n = 19).

In conclusion, these results show that FFA-absorbing Lactobacillus JBD301 effectively reduces weight gain both in mice and humans, which suggests its potential as a safe treatment for obesity. More studies in humans with a larger sample size and longer follow-up are needed in order to recommend probiotics for the treatment of obesity.



Chung HJ, Yu JG, Lee IA, et al. Intestinal removal of free fatty acids from hosts by Lactobacilli for the treatment of obesity. FEBS Open Bio. 2016; 6(1):64-76.