Gut Microbes and Your Weight

Did you know that your gut bacteria help regulate metabolism, nutrient absorption, and weight management?

I am sure we all know “that friend who can eat anything and get away with it”. We may even be “that friend”. Yet, this might not just be amazing metabolic powers, because gut bacteria and body weight are linked in many ways. In fact in 2009 Dr Krajnalmic Brown discovered that gut bacteria in obese people differs significantly from those of normal weight. Since then a lack of microbiome diversity has been linked to not only obesity but also metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

In 2021 we have now reached the stage where the analysis of bacteria in the gut can in fact predict obesity with 90% accuracy. So what’s the link? That’s where things get a little less clear for now. Some studies have shown that if you carry out a microbiota transplant from an obese human to a normal weight mouse, the mouse becomes obese. Likewise a microbiota transplant from a slim human leads to a slimmer mouse. Whilst that provides some clues we still need more studies to be carried out but there’s plenty of conjecture to keep us going; bacteria may influence our behaviour via the 100 million neurons in our gut. It’s due to these neurons that the gut has become known as the “second brain”.

That’s all very well but you might be wondering what you can do to improve the diversity of gut bacteria in the microbiome. The good news is that this is something that most scientists agree on:

  1. Increase Fibre Intake – in the UK the average intake daily is 18g of fibre. However, you could really do with aiming for more like 40g of fibre daily to provide the prebiotic fuel for probiotic bacteria to thrive on.
  2. Vary You Veg – try not to get stuck in a rut of eating the same vegetables day in and day out. Variety is just as important as quantities. Phyto-nutrients and types of fibre will vary, and each support different microbial species.
  3. Pick Polyphenol-Rich Foods. Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes, allowing a diverse range to thrive and survive. Examples are nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee and tea – especially green tea.
  4. Enjoy Probiotic Foods – these foods can actively contribute to a greater range of gut bugs. Try adding unsweetened yogurt, kefir, unpasteurised cheeses, cottage cheese, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, miso, tempeh and natto to your diet.
  5. Drink a Little Alcohol – yes you read that right. In small quantities, alcohol has been shown to increase your gut diversity. Small quantities means one measure of alcohol a day.
  6. Ditch the Sweeteners – they have been found to disrupt the metabolism of microbes and reduce gut diversity.
  7. Stroke a Dog – people living with animals have been shown to have greater gut bug diversity.
  8. Spend Time in the Countryside – those living in the countryside are found to have greater gut diversity than city-dwellers.
  9. Avoid Anti-biotics When You Don’t Need Them – they wipe out both good and bad bugs leaving you with poorer gut diversity.

If you want to try and increase your chances of losing weight and becoming slimmer then these are all interventions that offer a healthy outcome. Whether they will result directly in weight loss due to the changes in your microbiome is not certain but it is likely. We just need a little more research to show that this is 100% certain. It’s worth making these changes anyway for a healthier you though right?

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