How Your Gut Microbiome Could Be Wrecking Your Weightloss Efforts

Over the past few years, the role of beneficial gut bacteria has become better understood. In fact, these little bugs are so important to the function of the human body that many experts are starting to argue that humans are actually superorganisms – a communal group of organisms all working toward their mutual benefit.

Which is a crazy thought.

But, when you consider the fact that your gut bacteria influence everything from your mood to your immune system, it makes sense. But, perhaps most famously, this community of bacteria – clinically called the gut microbiome – can also have a powerful impact on your weight. In fact, a series of studies at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, suggest that the microbiome could be the reason why some many people struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Of Mice and Microorganisms

Initially, this batch of experiments was triggered by just one. A group of mice were put on different diets that caused them to gain and lose weight cyclically – a pattern known among us humans as “yoyo dieting.”

Throughout the process, the microbiome of the mice was carefully monitored. Somewhat predicably, the microbiome underwent some pretty drastic changes when the mice were obese. However, once the mice lost the weight, everything about their bodies returned to normal.

Except their microbiome. Their bacteria continued acting like the mice were still obese, fueling weight gain for at least six months.

From there on, the team tried to manipulate the bacteria in numerous ways – using the classic “poke-and-watch-what-happens” scientific model. During this barrage, the team tried everything from broad-spectrum antibiotics to fecal transplants. In all cases, it was obvious that the bacteria that had adapted to obesity were causing the mice to regain the weight.

Through this series of experiments, the researchers were able to identify two substances that existed in only very low levels in the “obese” microbiomes. Specifically, these chemicals belonged to the group of plant nutrients called flavonoids.

Typically, these flavonoids are obtained through diet and encourage the use of fat for fuel. In these abnormal gut environments, the flavonoids are destroyed too quickly to do any good.

So…?

This study is fascinating for a number of reasons. First, and foremost… it’s just really cool.

But also, it gives some much needed insight on why so many people struggle to keep the weight off once it’s gone. Most importantly, it provides a possible solution.

And, interestingly, that solution isn’t what most people would think.

After reading this and gaining the understanding that their gut microbiome could be actively working against them, the natural reaction for most would be to simply grab some probiotics. Packed with live cultures of healthy bacteria, these supplements could retrain and repopulate your microbiome in a way that could fix the problem.

But that’s not what these scientists did. Instead, they used what they call a “postbiotic” strategy: they introduced beneficial substances which are directly affected by the microbiome.

So, where can you get these flavonoids? From a variety of fruits and vegetables – which you should be eating anyway. Interestingly, the researchers also warn against eating processed and pre-packaged foods, which could have a negative impact on the health of your microbiome.          

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