Your Gut Bacteria May Determine How Much Weight You Can Lose

Different gut bacteria may affect differently the way energy is metabolized from foods.


The bacteria in our gut may play a major role in the treatment of obesity and other metabolic disorders. The human gut microbiome - the microorganisms that inhabit our intestines - are important in preserving our health by affecting our nutrition, immunity and development.

While there are still not enough studies with human subjects in this novel field, those that exist, show promising results. A recently published one in the International Journal of Obesity found that the ratio of two particular groups of bacteria in our gut can predict the fat loss outcomes of subjects who switched their diet to the New Nordic Diet (NND). 

The New Nordic Diet was developed three years ago by experts from the five Nordic countries in order to provide guidelines for healthier eating. The NND emphasizes local and seasonal foods, predominantly plant-based, such as roots and vegetables rich in fiber, and whole grains like rye and oats. The recommended meat comes from fish like salmon and herring or wild game like elk, which is low in fat. Due to the region’s climate it also includes a lot of wild foods and herbs like moss, mushrooms, nettles, chives and fennel.  

In the study, scientists wanted to compare the effects of the NND with the Average Danish Diet (ADD) on people with “increased waist circumference” who adhered to it for 26 weeks. The NND's macronutrient composition was higher in dietary fibre (43.3 vs. 28.6 g), higher in protein (18.1 vs. 16.4%), lower in fat (30.4 vs. 33.8%) and without differences in available carbohydrates. 

62 of the 181 subjects that took part in the study, were randomly selected to provide fecal samples, based on which they were separated in two groups depending on the ratio of Prevotella spp. and Bacteroides spp (P/B ratio) - two specific groups of bacteria that inhabit the human gut.

Interestingly, the effect of the two diets depended on the ratio of these groups of bacteria. Among subjects with high P/B ratio, those on the NND had a 6.94 lbs larger body fat loss compared to those on the ADD. No difference between the fat loss outcomes of the two diets was observed among individuals with low P/B ratio.

Even more intriguing is the fact that during the one year follow-up period, the researchers found that subjects with the high P/B ratio who were recommended to change from the ADD to the NND maintained their weight, whereas subjects with the low P/B ratio with the same recommendation regained 6 lbs.

Lead study investigator Mads Fiil Hjorth, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of nutrition, exercise, and sports at the University of Copenhagen told GEN:

"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. The other half of the population doesn't seem to gain any benefit in weight from this change of diet. These people should focus on other diet and physical activity recommendations, until a strategy that works especially well for them is identified.”

At this point the scientists can only speculate about the mechanisms involved in the results of the study. Different gut bacteria may affect differently the way energy is metabolized from foods, the way fibre is utilized, and the way hormones affecting appetite are secreted. Regardless of the mechanisms, however, the P/B ratio in one’s gut could be used as a biomarker to predict weight loss success on a specific diet. 

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Adam Gopnik on the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else

Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Liberalism as "radical pragmatism"
  • Intersectionality and civic discourse
  • How "a thousand small sanities" tackled drunk driving, normalized gay marriage, and could control gun violence
Keep reading Show less

Why the south of Westeros is the north of Ireland

As Game of Thrones ends, a revealing resolution to its perplexing geography.

Image: YouTube / Doosh
Strange Maps
  • The fantasy world of Game of Thrones was inspired by real places and events.
  • But the map of Westeros is a good example of the perplexing relation between fantasy and reality.
  • Like Britain, it has a Wall in the North, but the map only really clicks into place if you add Ireland.
Keep reading Show less

Fascism and conspiracy theories: The symptoms of broken communication

The lost practice of face-to-face communication has made the world a more extreme place.

Videos
  • The world was saner when we spoke face-to-face, argues John Cameron Mitchell. Not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them raises the potential for miscommunication and conflict.
  • Social media has been an incredible force for activism and human rights, but it's also negatively affected our relationship with the media. We are now bombarded 24/7 with news that either drives us to anger or apathy.
  • Sitting behind a screen makes polarization worse, and polarization is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and fascism, which Cameron describes as irrationally blaming someone else for your problems.
Keep reading Show less