Our body is made up of trillions of microorganisms. In fact, we’re more bacteria than we are cells. It’s well researched that our gut microbes play a role in various systems including our immune system and digestive system, and help regulate our appetite, hormone balance and metabolism.

Now researchers are digging deeper and conducting more human studies into the relationship our microbiomes have on our weight in hope to be able to develop weight-management treatments based on gut health.

Gut bacteria could help make you skinner or heavier

To date, there is various research that supports the idea that our gut health could be influencing our weight on the scales. Here, we list some of the findings:

  • A study of twins found the obese twins had different gut microbiomes with reduced gut bacteria diversity than that of their healthy weight twin.
  • When the gut bacteria of obese people were transferred into mice during a study it was found the rodents gain weight.
  • In a recent study, it was found those who had more of the bacteria Prevotella in their guts lost more body fat than those who had more Bacteroidetes.
  • Research has found that some gut bacteria we get through our consumption of food could indirectly cause us to gain weight by altering our gut’s behaviour.

As yet, there is no clear picture of exactly what bacteria you should have in a healthy gut to encourage weight loss. Researchers are also yet to understand the differences between the gut bacteria of an obese versus skinny person.

But what we do know is establishing a diverse gut microbiome comprising of as many different types of microbes as possible, is key to human health.

But what about weight loss?

Could a healthy gut filled with a diverse range of good bacteria help stimulate weight loss? Will taking a probiotic help you shift the excess kilos?

Could gut bacteria supplements help stimulate weight loss?

Early this month, researchers in Brussels published their preliminary findings in the Nature Medicine journal suggesting that a bug-filled supplement might produce favourable results.

Since gut microbiota has been established as a key contributor involved in the start of obesity-related conditions, the team of researchers decided to test how overweight/obese individuals would respond to the administration of the commensal bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila.

In rodents, A. muciniphila has been found to reduce obesity and improve conditions related to weight gain including insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and gut permeability.

40 overweight/obese insulin-resistant volunteers were recruited for the clinical trial with 32 completing the three-month trial.

The volunteers either received a supplement with:

a. Placebo

b. Live A. muciniphila (1010 bacteria per day)

c. Pasteurised A. muciniphila (1010 bacteria per day)

They were advised to maintain their normal food intake and physical activity during the pilot study period.

By the end of the recent study, it was found those who took the pasteurised A. muciniphila responded better to insulin than those who took the placebo, which helps to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Their total cholesterol levels reduced and they saw a slight decrease in their body weight compared to the placebo group. There was also a reduction in fat mass and hip circumference in these volunteers.

After three months of supplementing with A. muciniphila, the participants also saw reduced levels of inflammation and blood markers that indicate liver dysfunction. Their gut health state remained with the overall gut microbiome structure unaffected by the supplementation. With no side effects evident, this highlighted the safety of the supplementation on the volunteer’s overall health.

The best foods for a healthy gut

There are a number of foods you can include in your diet to enhance the diversity of your gut flora. By eating these foods regularly and reducing the intake of processed foods high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and oxidised fats you may see weight loss results.

Probiotic-rich foods

Probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt, fermented veggies, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso and kimchi all contain a broad range of beneficial bacteria strains like lactobacilli and help to minimise overgrowths of pathogenic bacteria. Tip: start low and go slow when you’re introducing these foods so as not to overwhelm the gut and cause digestive tract symptoms like bloating.

Prebiotic-rich foods

Undigestable fibres know as prebiotics are what feed the beneficial bacteria so they can thrive in your gut and confer health benefits. Foods such as onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and resistant starch are vital for your gut flora.

Unrefined Whole grains

Whole grains are high in fibre and provide fuel for beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and may assist with your weight loss journey.

Vegetables

Don’t rely on just fruit for your colour and fibre, increase your variety of vegetables to enhance the diversity of your gut microbiome. More leafy green and fibre-rich vegetables are also associated with a healthy weight.