Probiotic use by patients who are classified as overweight or obese was associated with a reduction in upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) symptoms, according to data presented at Digestive Disease Week 2021.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo control trial, 220 participants with body mass indexes (BMI) between 25-34.9 kg/m2 received either daily Lab4P probiotics (50 billion colony-forming units, containing 3 strains of Lactobacilli and 2 strains of Bifidobacteria) or placebo for 6 months (ISRCTN registry number: ISRCTN12562026). The self-reported daily symptom diaries of participants where then analyzed, with a focus on symptomatic indicators of URTI such as cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and wheezing.

Significant decreases favoring the probiotic arm were identified in body weight (1.3 kg; P <.0001) and BMI (0.045 kg/m2; P <.0001). In the probiotics group, participants also experienced a 27% lower overall incidence of URTI symptoms (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.73; 95% CI, 0.63-0.84; P <.0001).

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There were also significant interactions between symptom incidence and age (P =.0071) and BMI (P =.0393). Compared with younger participants, those aged over 45 years had a greater reduction in symptoms (IRR, 0.60; P <.0001 vs IRR, 0.90; P =.3336). The same was true of participants who were considered obese compared with overweight (IRR, 0.57; P <.0001 vs IRR, 0.78; P =.0059). A clear indication of a divergence between groups was found in the time taken to record first symptoms at weeks 1-2, favoring the probiotic arm.

According to investigators, probiotics are associated with, “a more marked reduction in URTI symptoms in overweight/obese people than in their counterparts.” Adding that the preventative benefits, “are most notable in obese and/or older participants, and occur rapidly after commencing probiotics.”


Mullish B, Marchesi J, Pass DA, Michael D, Plummer S, Wang D. Daily probiotic use is associated with a reduced rate of upper respiratory tract symptoms in overweight and obese people. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week Annual Meeting; May 21-23, 2021. Abstract 739.

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor