• Janet Golownia

Is there a link between gut health and weight?

Updated: May 10, 2020

There are 500 species and three pounds of bacteria in your gut. You have about 20,000 genes, but there are 2,000,000 (or more) bacterial genes. Hmmm … these bugs must be important. What do you think?

Your gut is a huge chemical factory that helps to digest food, produce vitamins, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, produce healing compounds and keep your gut healthy. Think of the bugs in your gut like a rain forest. It is a diverse and interdependent ecosystem that must be in balance for you to be healthy.

Inflammatory fats, like omega 6 vegetable oils (canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, etc.), promote growth of bad bugs. Bad bugs produce toxins called lipopolysacchardies (LPS) that trigger inflammation, insulin resistance or pre-diabetes and therefore, promote weight gain. Lack of sleep and chronic stress also contribute to gut imbalance. Did you know that your gut flora listens to and becomes influenced by your thoughts and feelings? Amazing right?

Let’s look at some of the research …

One study examined the gut bacteria in 77 pairs of twins, one of whom was obese and one of whom was not. The study found that those who were obese had different gut bacteria than their non-obese twins. Obesity was associated with lower gut bacteria diversity, meaning there were fewer types of bacteria in the gut.[1]

Other studies have shown that if the gut bacteria from obese people are put into mice, the mice gain weight. This suggests that gut bacteria could affect weight. [2]

Humans can’t digest fiber but certain gut bacteria can. By digesting fiber, these gut bacteria produce chemicals that benefit gut health and possibly promote weight loss. [3]

A recent study found that the ratio of two types of bacteria in your intestines may determine how much weight you lose when given a certain diet. [4]

In this study, 62 people were given a high-fiber, whole grain diet for 26 weeks. Those who had more Prevotella in their intestines lost 5.1 pounds (2.3 kg) more body fat than those with more Bacteroidetes in their intestines. [5]

Your gut bacteria also digest certain antioxidants found in plants known as flavonoids, which may help prevent weight gain. [6]

Finally, your gut bacteria can influence how dietary fats are absorbed in the intestines, which may affect how fat is stored in the body. [7]

I am not a scientist or a researcher. I don’t know if these are well done studies. But it seems safe to conclude that our gut bacteria influence our weight and our health. So if you want to lose weight maybe you want to ask yourself a different question before you eat. Will this feed my good bugs?

What does feed your good bacteria?

Whole grains: Whole grains that haven’t been refined. They're high in fiber, which is digested by healthy gut bacteria like Bifidobacteria.

Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain different fibers that help the good gut bacteria proliferate and create diversity.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds also contain lots of fiber and healthy fats, which help support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Polyphenol-rich foods: These include dark chocolate, green tea and red wine. The polyphenols in these foods can’t be digested alone but are broken down by beneficial gut bacteria, promoting the growth of good bacteria.

Fermented foods: Fermented foods include yogurt, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut. They contain beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli and can minimize other disease-causing bacteria in the intestines.

Probiotics: Probiotics aren’t necessary all the time, but they can help restore healthy gut bacteria after an illness or course of antibiotics and may even aid weight los

[1] A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins

[2] Cultured gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate adiposity and metabolic phenotypes in mice Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice

[3] From Dietary Fiber to Host Physiology: Short-Chain Fatty Acids as Key Bacterial Metabolites

[4] Fat, Fiber and Cancer Risk in African Americans and Rural Africans

[5] Pre-treatment microbial Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio, determines body fat loss success during a 6-month randomized controlled diet intervention

[6] Persistent microbiome alterations modulate the rate of post-dieting weight regain

[7] The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage

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