Accumulating research indicates microbiota in lean individuals is different from that of obese people; lean people tend to have a higher proportion of two types of beneficial bacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, than obese people.
Emerging evidence also indicates that probiotics–live microorganisms that boost healthy gut bacteria populations–provide many health benefits, including enhanced immune response and mitigation of gastrointestinal conditions like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome and may factor in obesity prevention.
SCIENCE ON “SKINNY” BUGS
There are “roughly” 100 trillion bacteria in the average person’s gastrointestinal tract comprising more than 500 species. Collectively called gut microbiota, they are influenced throughout your lifetime by your genetics, environment, diet, and immune system. In a 2010 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 was found to lower abdominal fat and body weight in adult subjects with tendencies to become obese.
In another study, of post-operative weight loss surgery patients, researchers found greater weight loss among those who took daily Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotics (Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, July 2009.) And studies have found that probiotics showed positive results in suppressing or reducing body weight in rats (Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 2010, Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, 2008.)
More research is needed to explain why probiotics and gut bacteria influence weight, but one theory is that the gut microbiota profile of obese people shows a propensity for absorbing more calories from foods. When you digest food, your body generally does not absorb 100 percent of the calories from the food, but preliminary research indicates that different balances of gut microbiota may alter the rate of calorie absorption during digestion.
PROBIOTICS ARE UNIQUE
Probiotic research is often performed with different species, strains, and levels of bacteria. In fact, the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics likens the concept of a probiotic strain to that of a breed of dog. All dogs are the same genus and species, but different breeds have different attributes and talents. In the same way, different strains of even the same probiotic species may produce different effects.
Researchers are just scratching the surface on the importance of gut microbiota for optimal health–including obesity. For now, the key to a healthy weight still is through healthy diet and physical activity. However, many benefits are linked with a favorable balance of healthy gut bacteria. This can be fostered by consuming foods that feed healthy bacteria, such as high-fiber plant foods (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,) and taking probiotics according to package directions.
Visit the U.S. Probiotics website (www.USProbiotics.org) for information on probiotic products with documented health benefits.
– Environmental Nutrition
Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com. (c) 2012 BELVOIR MEDIA GROUP DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.