The Unexpected Influence on Your Weight Loss Success
For years we have been told that our ability to lose weight depends on calories in vs. calories out; ie. the difference between the number of calories we consume through food and the number of calories we burn throughout the day. New research has recently come out saying that it is not so simple.
This probably comes as no surprise to many of you. We have all had that one friend who tries a new diet and it works perfectly for them, and yet when we try it, we see no results or somehow manage to gain weight! The research is now adding a new step to our old formula for weight loss.
Calories in + the right gut microbiota + calories out = weight loss.
The gut microbiome is a greatly neglected part of our overall health. The little bacteria that live throughout our gastrointestinal tract have an effect on our immune system, our skin health, and our digestion. Now researchers are discovering that they can also be why you can or cannot lose weight.
Having the “right” ratio of specific microbiota has been observed to be critical for weight loss. A recent study looked at the stool samples of individuals on the New Nordic Diet (high fiber), and a standard Danish diet (high protein & fat). It found that people were only successful at losing weight if they had higher Prevotella bacteria to Bacteroide bacteria. If they didn’t have the right ratio they saw little to no weight loss, despite the fact that they were on a diet.
An interesting fact on these two different kinds of gut microbiota: bacteroides are found in larger quantities in the stool samples of individuals from North America, while prevotella are in abundance in the stool samples of individuals who are non-North American. Bacteroides feed on things like fatty foods and meat, while prevotella feeds on high fiber fruits and vegetables.
The gut microbiome, the interwoven workings of the various bacteria living throughout our gastrointestinal tract, is incredibly complex. There are many different genera of gut bacteria, each with its own role in the body. For the sake of this article, we will focus on the two observed in the study mentioned at the beginning of the article.
To summarize, individuals were fed 2 diets: 1 high fiber diet, and one high fat and protein diet. The individuals who had a high prevotella : bacteroides ratio saw results on both diets. Individuals with a low prevotella : bacteroides saw little to no change. This would suggest that a high prevotella concentration in the gut will set us up for success when we would like to lose weight.
Unfortunately the standard american diet, or SAD, typically does not include the kinds of foods that feed the prevotella bacteria. These little gut bugs feed on high fiber foods and the only way to ensure we have an abundance of them is to feed them those types of food.
Gut microbiota primarily exists in the intestines. Here most of the simple carbohydrates like mono- and disaccharides like fructose (fruit sugar), galactose (dairy sugars), glucose (table sugar), maltose (cereals, barley) have already been absorbed earlier on in the digestive system. All that is left to feed on are the more complex molecules like those found in high fiber foods, or proteins and fats. Prevotella likes the oligo- and polysaccharides found in starchy carbs like potatoes, certains plants like asparagus, artichokes and other “roughage”.
So if we are eating diets that are composed of highly processed and refined foods we will be increasing our number of bacteroides and leaving our prevotella to starve.
Other Bonuses to Healthy Gut Microbiome
The bacteria in our gut are developed very early on. In fact, the bacteroides begin to populate in large numbers when we are babies and are feeding on breast milk or formula. Building up our bacteroide colonies is crucial to developing a strong immune system.
Yes – we did just say that bacteroides are beneficial as well!
The important thing to remember from the ratio study is that it is a ratio. Yes, we need to build up higher quantities of the prevotella bacteria, but we also must maintain a population of bacteroides so that we have a flourishing gut microbiome. Right now many of our weight problems are caused by an unhealthy imbalance of microbiota due to our diet that is high in simple carbs, overly processed and refined foods.
What You Can Do Now
The best way to benefit from this knowledge is to start putting it into practice. Include high fiber foods like artichokes, pumpkin, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, oats, chia seeds, almonds, and avocado (to name a few). Make sure your plate has a variety of food sources to ensure the large variety of gut bacteria are all getting their fair share of food.