By Michele Kingston, Feb 27 2012 2:51PM
Altering gut bacteria has been found to have an effect on weight according to a study published in the Nature Review Endocrinology.
The human gut is home to a hundred trillion bacteria and is made of approximately 1,000 to 1,150 bacterial species, although many of these species are found in the majority of people their relative abundance can vary greatly. This means that 90% of our body is made up of bacteria, a fact that may make you squirm, but they are incredibly important to our health and wellbeing. These bacteria have a great impact on our bodies, being a major part of the immune system, making vitamins and digesting our food are just a few of the ways they help to keep us healthy.
When there are changes in gut bacteria and some species are lost or others are increased, health problems can occur, such as inflammatory bowel disease and now it seems they may play a role in whether we are slim or not.
Things that can shape and change the gut’s bacteria population are genetic factors, state of the immune system, use of antibiotics and other medications and the diet. It is thought that a high-fat Western diet can change the types of bacteria in the gut and cause a certain species known as Firmicutes to increase and a species called Bacteroidetes to decrease.
The study found that transferring the gut bacteria from an obese mouse to a lean mouse was found to cause the lean mouse to increase in weight, a strong indication that the gut bacteria are playing an important role in increasing weight. The cause of this might be that the gut bacteria can adjust systems in the body that are involved in how the body stores fat and uses it to make energy; they may also have an effect on hormones and inflammation, or they may be influencing gene expression, any of which can cause weight gain.
So how might this new information help with the fight against obesity and help you lose weight if you’ve previously been struggling to do so?
Well, it seems that by changing the gut bacteria and specifically increasing the type known as Bifidobacteria, which are found to be decreased in obese individuals, could help weight loss.
Sounds great, but how do we do this?
The study looked at using dietary prebiotics, which are non-digestible food ingredients from certain fruit and vegetables. These are used as food by gut bacteria and help the bacteria to grow and increase in numbers, particularly the Bifidobacteria species. So providing more prebiotics encourages more of these helpful bacteria. The study also found people fed prebiotics ate less at each meal and felt more satisfied afterwards and ultimately had a reduction in body weight.
We can get high amounts of inulin, which is a prebiotic, from vegetables such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, onion, leek and garlic and so increasing these in your daily diet, will increase the amount of prebiotic you consume. This could then, according to the study, lead to increasing the favourable bacteria in the gut and ultimately with weight loss. So eating more vegetables to increase your health is not a new idea, but perhaps eating more vegetables might be a little easier with the knowledge it could help your friendly gut bacteria and lead to weight loss.
By Michele Kingston, Nutritional Therapist, BSc Nutr. Med., mBANT.
Delzenne, N.M et al. Nat.Rev. Endocrinol. 2011
By Michele Kingston, Feb 27 2012 2:40PM
Hello and welcome to my blog. This information is for my clients, potential clients and really anyone with an interest in nutrition and health. I will using this blog to post articles on health related topics that I hope you will find interesting, plus recipes for you to try and any other nutrition bites that I think might be useful for you.
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