Study: The Key to Weight Loss May Lie in Your Gut
A new study on weight loss suggests that, apart from body mass index (BMI), the likelihood that a person will fail or succeed at shedding the pounds is linked to the genetic makeup of one’s gut microbiome.
Researchers from the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) observed 105 people who were part of a consumer wellness program. Fifty percent exhibited improved metabolic health markers and consistent weight loss, while the other half only maintained a stable weight but did not respond to the weight-loss interventions.
When the scientists looked into the participants’ gut microbiomes to find out if there was something in these that led to the results, they discovered that the microbiomes of those who had lost weight had a high rate of bacterial growth (specifically Prevotella and other types of Bacteriodetes genera). They also had genes that divert nutrients from a persons’ usual diet into the growth of these bacteria.
On the other hand, those who did not lose weight had a lower rate of bacterial formation in their gut, combined with the higher capacity to metabolize non-absorbable fibers and starches into absorbable sugars. The guts of those who were weight-loss-resistant were also found to be more primed for an inflamed environment.
“Our results underscore the fact that our gut microbiome is an important filter between the food we consume and our bloodstream. Weight loss may be especially hard when our gut bacteria slow their own growth, while also breaking down dietary fibers into energy-rich sugars that make their way into our bloodstream before they can be fermented into organic acids by the microbiota,” said Dr. Christian Diener, the lead author of the study.
The findings are significant in the development of diagnostic tests to identify whether or not an individual can succeed in losing weight by changing their lifestyles and participating in wellness programs.
Understanding the gene design of a person’s gut microbiome could help healthcare providers devise more targeted and successful regimens that would help people reach their weight loss targets.
“At a minimum, this work may lead to diagnostics for identifying individuals who will respond well to moderate healthy lifestyle changes, and those who may require more drastic measures to achieve weight loss. By understanding which microbes and metabolic processes help promote weight loss in the gut microbiome, we can begin to design targeted prebiotic and probiotic interventions that might push a weight-loss resistant microbiome to look more like a weight-loss permissive microbiome,” noted Dr. Sean Gibbons, assistant professor at ISB and co-author of the research.
The paper, titled “Baseline Gut Metagenomic Functional Gene Signature Associate with Variable Weight Loss Responses Following a Healthy Lifestyle Intervention in Humans,” is published in the American Society of Microbiology.