How Gut Bacteria Influence Your Weight
Bacteria appear to influence human health and disease in two key ways. While an overabundance of certain bacteria have been linked to various diseases, other microbes appear to be actively involved in preventing certain disease states.
When they're lacking, you end up losing this protection, which allows the disease process to set in.
For example, by eradicating four species of bacteria (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenelleceae, and Candidatus arthromitus), researchers were able to trigger metabolic changes in lab animals that led to obesity.4
As time goes on, it seems increasingly reasonable to think that obesity is largely influenced by gut bacteria. This in no way changes the fact that certain foods will make you pack on the pounds, the bacteria just play a major role in facilitating that process.
The foods known to produce metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance (such as processed foods, fructose/sugar, and artificial sweeteners) also decimate beneficial gut bacteria, and it may well be that this is a key mechanism by which these foods promote obesity.
Chemicals may also contribute to your weight problem by way of your gut microbiome.
For example, a study5 published in the July issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in food altered the gut microbiome in mice, thereby contributing to the development of obesity and metabolic dysfunction.
Another study6,7 found that one microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila helps ward off obesity, diabetes, and heart disease by lowering blood sugar, improving insulin resistance, and promoting a healthier distribution of body fat.
A. muciniphila is associated with a fiber-rich diet, and fiber has long been recognized for its beneficial effects on health and weight. It's still not known whether A. muciniphila produces these effects all on its own, or whether it helps promote other beneficial bacteria, however.
According to the authors:
"Our findings demonstrate the need for further investigation to ascertain the therapeutic applicability of A. muciniphila in the treatment of insulin resistance.
A. muciniphila may be identified as a diagnostic or prognostic tool to predict the potential success of dietary interventions."
Fiber and Fermented Foods Are Key Components of a Healthy Diet
While it's virtually impossible to determine the composition of an ideal microbiome, seeing how our gut flora is as individual as our finger print, what we do know is that a healthy diet is key for optimizing your individual microbiome. We've also come to realize that fermented foods and foods high in fiber are very important components of a healthy diet, as these foods help nourish a wide variety of beneficial bacteria.
Such foods have been part of the human diet since ancient times, and replacing them with chemically altered and "sterilized" processed foods has led to many of our current health problems. Traditional sauerkraut, for example, has been identified as a heart-healthy superfood. As reported by The Epoch Times:12
"Research in the medical journal Food and Function13 found that unpasteurized sauerkraut contained a potent probiotic known as wild lactobacillus plantarum FC225, to which many of sauerkraut's heart-healing abilities could be attributed. Upon investigation, the scientists conducting the study found that the probiotic-rich sauerkraut helped in the following ways:
- Reduced cholesterol levels
- Reduced triglyceride levels
- Significantly increased levels of two powerful antioxidants known as superoxide disumutase (SOD) and glutathione
- Decreased the degradation of fats in the body (a process known as lipid peroxidation)"
Swapping Gut Bacteria May Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is another common health problem that can be traced back to impaired gut flora. Studies have found that the microbial composition in diabetics differ from non-diabetics. In particular, diabetics tend to have fewer Firmicutes and more plentiful amounts of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, compared to non-diabetics. A positive correlation for the ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and reduced glucose tolerance has also been found.
A researcher in Amsterdam, Dr. Max Nieuwdorp, has published a number of studies looking at changes in the microbiome that are characteristic of type 2 diabetes. In one trial, he was able to reverse type 2 diabetes in all of the 250 study participants by doing fecal transplantations on them. Remarkable as it may sound, by changing the makeup of the gut bacteria, the diabetes was resolved.
Even more interesting, type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) in young children also tends to be preceded by a change in gut bacteria. This makes sense as your gut flora control about 80 percent of your immune response and type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The good news is that researchers have found that certain microbes can actually help prevent type 1 diabetes, suggesting your gut flora may indeed be an epigenetic factor that plays a significant role in this condition.