Your Poop Shows How Likely You Are To Lose Weight. Here's What The New Science Says
While we've long looked to our poop to find out about our microbiome, a new study makes that link actionable by identifying the bacteria responsible for weight loss. "Human intestinal bacteria have been linked to the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity, and scientists have started to investigate whether the intestinal bacteria can play a role in the treatment of being overweight," explained the study's author, professor Arne Astrup, head of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark (he shared many of the findings of his remarkable weight-loss research with mbg back in April). "But it is only now that we have a breakthrough demonstrating that certain bacterial species play a decisive role in weight regulation and weight loss."
The study divided 54 people into two groups. For 26 weeks, one of these groups ate the New Nordic Diet, while the other consumed a standard Danish Diet. The New Nordic Diet (similar to a Mediterranean eating plan) focuses on plant-based foods, seafood, and canola oil, while the Danish Diet limits to only two food groups—protein and vegetables—and cuts out all fruit, whole grains and dairy products. The group eating the New Nordic Diet lost roughly double the weight of the other group.
Here's where it gets interesting: The subjects were then divided by their level of gut bacteria. People with a high proportion of Prevotella bacteria in relation to Bacteroides bacteria lost 3.5 kg more during the duration of the study by eating the New Nordic Diet, while subjects with a low proportion of Prevotella didn't lose any weight. Roughly 50 percent of the population has the bacteria makeup identified to aid weight loss in the study.
"The study shows that only about half of the population will lose weight if they eat in accordance with the Danish national dietary recommendations and eat more fruit, vegetables, fibers, and whole grains. The other half of the population doesn't seem to gain any benefit in weight from this change of diet," explained assistant professor Mads Fiil Hjorth, who co-authored the study.
While we haven't yet identified the role of all of the bacteria in the gut, the study shows a glimpse of a future where people can use personalized bacteria profiles (garnered, likely, from their feces) to custom tailor their diets for maximum health results. Bacteria profiling is already available (our health editor had her microbiome sequenced—here's what she found out), and scientists are making strides in identifying new correlations daily.
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