Study Shows Gut Bacteria Influence How Much Weight Loss Is Possible
If you’ve tried every diet and weight loss strategy under the sun and still can’t drop pounds, it might have as much to do with what’s lurking in your gut as what’s sitting on your plate. A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that the balance of bacteria in your microbiome, which resides in your gastrointestinal tract, may determine your success or failure on any diet—in some cases more so than your food choices.
Why Your Gut Bacteria Is Important to Weight Loss
Researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that the ratio of two gut bacteria, Prevotella and Bacteroides, found in the stool samples of study participants determined how much weight they could lose. Over the course of 26 weeks, some participants consumed the New Nordic Diet, which is high in fruit, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains—and the rest of the participants ate a standard Danish diet, which doesn’t place as much emphasis on whole foods and contains more meats.
While the group eating the high-fiber diet lost more overall weight than the standard Danish diet group, those with a high ratio of Prevotella to Bacteroides had the most success on the high-fiber diet. They lost about seven pounds more body fat when compared to those with the same bacteria ratio who were consuming the standard Danish diet. Among the participants with a low ratio of Prevotella to Bacteroides, there was no statistical significance in weight loss between both groups.
So, in essence, the people who transitioned to a high-fiber, plant-based diet were able to achieve more weight loss than those on the lower-fiber diet when they had a higher ratio of Prevotella to Bacteroides bacteria. Study authors noted that the results suggest a bio-individualized approach to weight loss may be more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. Approximately half the population has a high ratio of Prevotella bacteria in relation to Bacteroides.
“The study shows that only about half of the population will lose weight if they eat in accordance with the Danish national dietary recommendations and eat more fruit, vegetables, fibers and whole grains,” said study co-author Mads F. Hjorth in a statement. “The other half of the population doesn’t seem to gain any benefit in weight from this change of diet.”
If You Want to Drop Weight, Balancing Your Microbiome Can Help
The microbiome is home to trillions of microbial cells, collectively weighing up to four or more pounds, and the diversity of microbes is unique to each person. Beyond their role in digestion—gut bacteria break down the complex molecules in a variety of foods—they appear to influence our blood sugar, how we store fat, and our response to hunger hormones.
Research also shows that food choices have the power to alter the gut microbiota composition—which suggests that we may possibly make our bacterial balance more favorable for weight loss by modulating our diet. For example, consuming resistant starch, which is indigestible to us but feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut, appears to improve blood sugar, lower appetite, and decrease fat storage in research—all of which may aid weight loss. The use of probiotics may help as well.
If sorting through conflicting dietary advice has left you exhausted, a physician within the BodyLogicMD network can offer you personalized nutritional guidance based on knowledge of your unique bio-individuality, which includes your gut microbiome. They are trained in interpreting specialized stool, urine, and saliva testing to get to the root of your health and weight loss challenges. Contact a physician within the BodyLogicMD network today to set up a consultation.