Gut bacteria may make it harder to lose weight, study reports

Avatar By Joseph Scalise | 2 years ago

Gut bacteria may influence how people gain or lose weight, according to a new study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The finding comes from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, who discovered that each person’s specific mix of gut microbes can either help or hurt weight loss efforts.

In the research, the team tracked participants enrolled in a lifestyle-intervention program specifically for weight loss over the course of three months. All of the subjects were told to follow a low calorie diet in that time.

That then revealed the importance of certain microbes when it came to keeping weight on or off.

The study showed that participants who successfully lost weight had an abundance of bacteria known as Phascolarctobacterium, while people who had trouble losing weight had high concentrations of the bacteria Dialister.

Though those were the only two microbes analyzed in the research, there are likely others that affect weight loss as well.

“We found that people who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight had a different gut bacteria as compared to those who did not lose 5 percent of their body weight,” explained lead author Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, according to NPR.

The reason for those correlations is that microbes influence the amount of calories a person burns.

Though humans digest most of they food eat, there are parts that they cannot absorb. Rather, bacteria inside the stomach break down the rest by digesting byproducts. Those then turn into calories.

In the new study the team found that specific bacteria mixtures are more effective at creating extra calories for humans to digest than others. In fact, that process accounts for between 5 and 15 percent of all calories humans intake.

Though those extra calories are important when food is scarce, when meals are plentiful it simply makes it much harder to lose weight.

While this study sheds light on a brand new process, it was relatively small. The team next plans to conduct a much larger trial on people from different regions to see if they can replicate their results.

If that holds up, it could lead to brand new diets or weight loss programs down the line.

“What we would hope to do is to be able to individualize care for people,” added Kashyap. “And we’d also try to develop new probiotics, which we could use to change the microbial makeup.”