Can the gut microbiome help weight management?
Excess weight is a major health issue which is driving a devastating rise in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
A new study sheds light on how our bodies use calories, and how bacteria in our gut can help us control our weight!
The long-held wisdom of counting ‘calories in’ vs. ‘calories out’, when trying to lose weight, has been turned on its head by a team of US scientists.
Our gut microbiome – the 100 trillion microbes that live in our gut – is at the heart of the story.
Our gut microbes are at the heart of weight control
Researchers have found that our gut microbiome is the control centre for energy consumption. Our gut microbes help extract energy from food and produce energy sources that our cells can use.
Importantly, these gut microbes live in the far end of our digestive tract – our colon – and so rely on fibre-rich wholefoods that make it all the way through. Highly processed, ground or refined foods, on the other hand, are quickly absorbed in your upper digestive tract, which means more calories for your body and fewer for your gut microbiome.
Corbin and her colleagues (Nature Communications, May 2023) wanted to better understand the role of our gut microbiome in weight management and metabolic health.
In a small but rigorous study, people were fed one of two diets:
The Microbiome Enhancer Diet (MBD): designed to deliver more foodstuffs to the colon – the latter part of your digestive tract, where most gut microbes live
- The MBD focused on 4 drivers:
- Dietary fibre
- Resistant starch
- Foods with ‘large particles’ (larger chunks)
- Limited processed foods
Western Diet: consisting of easily digested, highly processed foods
The MBD and Western Diet both consisted of equal calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates – only the quality of the calories differed.
Key findings from the study
Corbin et al found that with the MBD, less energy was available to us from the food we eat. With a typical Western Diet, more energy is made available – even though the total number of calories were the same for both diets. Hence the added potential for weight gain.
The QUALITY of calories is as important as QUANTITY – if not more so!
Also, the microbiome of people eating the MBD was different, with gut microbes producing more molecules called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs), that are essential for our well-being.
“On a Western diet that doesn’t feed the microbes very much, almost all the energy goes to us and very little goes to the microbes … We don’t give the microbes any opportunity to utilize the calories we eat because we use them all. We pull the rope all the way to one end.”
By eating a fibre-rich MBD style diet, you are not just feeding yourself, but also your gut microbes. We now know this effectively reduces the number of calories your body absorbs; and may also boost your general well-being.
NOTE: This does not constitute or substitute for medical advice! Seek professional healthcare advice as needed
Other posts you might enjoy:
The surprising link between your microbiome and mood Did you know there is a close connection between your gut microbiome and your mood? It turns out that the secrets to your emotional well-being may well lie within your microbiome. The microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that live in and on your body, including…
Examining the benefit of probiotics for acne Acne is a common skin condition that affects many. In fact, ~650 million people worldwide are estimated to suffer from acne. Having battled acne and rosacea most of my adult life, I’m all too familiar with the constant search for treatments that actually work. As a medical microbiologist,…
Your questions answered about the human skin microbiome Welcome to our health blog where we dive deep into the fascinating world of the human skin microbiome! Have you ever pondered why your skin behaves the way it does? Or perhaps you’re curious about the role of the skin microbiome in conditions like acne, eczema, or…
Right away in the west of Ireland lies a tiny hamlet called Kraighten. It is situated, alone, at the base of a low hill.
Gut healthy blueberry kefir smoothie with banana
Discover 9 of the best kefir brands Plus the benefit of kefir milk We’ve enjoyed the benefit of kefir milk for centuries. But kefir’s recent rise to fame is likely linked to our growing interest in gut health. Because we now know that gut health is essential for both physical and mental well-being. If you…
What a skin microbiome test kit revealed about my best skincare routine Following years of trial and error to find the best skincare routine for my acne and rosacea-prone skin, I was so happy to discover that a skin microbiome test kit could unlock the secrets of my skin, and potentially my best skincare routine.…