Recent research suggests that propionate, found in your intestinal tract, could help with weight loss, but it may not be the magic bullet that some would want it to be.

I try to read Google Health News, and the like, daily so that I know what my patients may ask me questions about, or at least to see what is in the health news. The article Could A Supplement Prevent Weight Gain floored me. I am often asked by patients if there is a magic weight loss product to which my answer has always been no, and even after reading this article my answer still will be no. The article published on talks about a food supplement, a chemical compound in fact, which “appears to prevent weight gain and trim fat around the waist, researchers say.” It seems as though they are using a fatty acid, propionate, that is created when fiber ferments in the colon.

The studies that have been done so far with propionate have been small, and leave a lot to be desired. One study was done with 20 people who were given propionate, or insulin (a natural fiber). It was seen that the people given propionate before the meal ate 14% less than those given insulin.  Another study followed 49 overweight adults between the ages of 45 to 65. Of the 25 people who took the propionate, only one person gained more than 3% of body weight compared to the 6% gained of the 24 who took insulin instead.

One of the researchers, and co-author, Gary Frost, is not sure what is going on as to why there has been a change in weight, and abdominal fat. Is it because the propionate is causing the person to eat less, or is it helping with fat burning (lipolysis)? To me, the change that people got was very minimal. And, because small sample groups were used, it makes me question to what degree this product is really helping. As of now this product is not available for purchase, but the researchers are working with food companies to get it into the market.

I do not know much about the propionate that they are using, thus I went to PubMed, and researched it. Back in May of 2011, in Nutritional Review, an article titled Propionate as a health-promoting microbial metabolite in the human gut was authored by Hosseini E, Grootaert C, Verstraete W, and Van deWiele T.  The abstract of the article talks about several big health components of this microbial fermentation metabolite, propionate, even outside of the gastrointestinal tract. Including lowering lipogenesis (production of fat), lowering cholesterol levels, and lowering carcinogenesis in the liver. Thus looking at how to naturally increase our levels of propionate through the fiber and diet choices we make may help us to maintain our weight, and benefit the body in many other ways.

Propionate is going to be something that I will keep my eye on in the future, but not as the magic bullet for weight loss. I want to learn how to naturally increase our levels via the right combination of fiber, gastrointestinal bugs, and the like.

Source:, and PubMed