NEW YORK, Jan. 13, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Have you ever wondered why some diet plans work for your friends, but not for you? Modern-day dieting is based on general recommendations rather than creating a personalized plan for the individual. What works for your friends does not necessarily work for you.
And the reason may lie in your gut.
The first scientific study that opened the eyes of scientists to the gut/weight-loss/weight-gain connection was published in 2006. The team from Washington University looked at genetically engineered obese mice and found that a category of gut microbes called firmicutes was consistently over-represented. The study results clearly show that these particular microbes are highly efficient at extracting energy from food and breaking down fiber, as well as increasing the absorption of fat.1
Another study published in the journal Science in 2013 found that healthy mice could be made obese by increasing specific gut microbes. Fecal matter from obese humans, teeming with gut microbes, was transferred to healthy mice. The body weight of mice significantly increased, while transferring fecal matter from lean humans prevented mice from putting on weight. 2
Could this hold true for humans? It appears so. One 32-year-old woman was subjected to a human-to-human fecal transfer in 2011 after suffering from an infection that causes inflammation of the colon. The donor microbes came from her overweight daughter. One year later, this woman weighed 34 pounds more after the transfer than before. She is still obese today, despite partaking in a supervised diet and exercise program. 3
Scientists believe it is very important to find out which microbes are harmful and which are useful. They hope to learn how to cultivate this inner ecosystem in ways that could treat obesity. Just try to imagine supplements devised to promote virtuous microbes while suppressing the harmful types. It is important to explore many types of microbes and their impact on our body.
This brings us back to the question that we posed at the beginning: Have you ever wondered why some diet plans work for others, but not for you?
A team from Chalmers University of Technology mapped out exactly how each type of microorganism in the gut interacts with food, our bodies, and each other. This allowed them to make a formula that predicts how well somebody will respond to a specific diet.
The team examined 18 obese and overweight participants that had low gut-bacteria diversity (they didn't have a lot of different types of microbes in their guts), and 27 obese or overweight participants that had high gut-bacteria diversity. All participants were placed on a low-calorie, high-protein diet.
After a six-week program, everyone had lost weight. However, the group with low diversity in their intestinal flora also successfully lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. What is more important is that the researchers accurately predicted study results with a previously developed mathematical formula. 4 This proof of concept now means that they can use their calculations to help make personalized diet plans based on gut flora.
Exactly how bacteria affects weight is still unknown. However, many researchers already have theories that provide some answers. It is possible that your gut microbes play a role in processing food and help to define what percentage of calories and nutrients your body absorbs. When a person eats a meal, the food is broken down in the gut to sugar. Most of that sugar is glucose and passes straight into the blood. High levels of blood glucose are harmful and cause various diseases. The body releases insulin – the hormone that moves sugar out of your blood. Certain intestinal microbes may alter your sensitivity to insulin so that your body burns fat it would have otherwise stored. 5
Clearly this research could be a game changer in the constant battle of the bulge.
But it's gonna take guts.
1. Nature 444, 1022-1023 (21 December 2006) | doi:10.1038/4441022a; Received 8 October 2006; Accepted 10 November 2006; Published online 21 December 2006 - Ruth E. Ley, Peter J. Turnbaugh, Samuel Klein & Jeffrey I. Gordon - Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obesity
2. Science 6 September 2013: 341 (6150), 1241214 [DOI:10.1126/science.1241214] - Vanessa K. Ridaura, Jeremiah J. Faith, Federico E. Rey, Jiye Cheng, Alexis E. Duncan, Andrew L. Kau, Nicholas W. Griffin, Vincent Lombard, Bernard Henrissat, James R. Bain, Michael J. Muehlbauer, Olga Ilkayeva, Clay F. Semenkovich, Katsuhiko Funai, David K. Hayashi, Barbara J. Lyle, Margaret C. Martini, Luke K. Ursell, Jose C. Clemente, William Van Treuren, William A. Walters, Rob Knight, Christopher B. Newgard, Andrew C. Heath, and Jeffrey I. Gordon - Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice
3. Open Forum Infect Dis (Winter 2015) 2 (1):doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofv004First published online: February 1, 2015 - Neha Alang & Colleen R. Kelly - Weight Gain After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
Open Forum Infect Dis (Winter 2015) 2 (1):doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofv005 - Ana A. Weil, & Elizabeth L. Hohmann - Fecal Microbiota Transplant: Benefits and Risks
4. Cell Metabolism (4 August 2015) Volume 22, Issue 2, p320–331 | doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.001 - Saeed Shoaie,Pouyan Ghaffari,Petia Kovatcheva-Datchary,Adil Mardinoglu,Partho Sen,Estelle Pujos-Guillot,Tomas de Wouters,Catherine Juste,Salwa Rizkalla,Julien Chilloux,Lesley Hoyles,Jeremy K. Nicholson,Joel Dore,Marc E. Dumas,Karine Clement et al. - Quantifying Diet-Induced Metabolic Changes of the Human Gut Microbiome
5. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology (February 2013) Volume 27, Issue 1, Pages 73–83 The Gut Microbiome | doi:10.1016/j.bpg.2013.03.007 - Amandine Everard, M.Sc., Pharm, Patrice D. Cani, PhD, (Professor) - Diabetes, obesity and gut microbiota
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