Naturally-fermented foods and increasing fiber intake, according to study results, help create the proper gut microbiome to lose weight
Of the 49.1% of adult Americans who have tried to lose weight in the past 12 months, 62.9% employed strategies related to exercise. The same amount reduced their food intake and 50.4% boosted their consumption of fruits and vegetables according to data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Yet, the results of one new study suggest that the ease with which individuals succeed when working to shed excess weight might depend, in part, on the make-up of the proper gut microbiome to lose weight.
Research connects gut microbiota and weight loss outcomes
On Sept. 14, 2021, the American Society for Microbiology published a study conducted by researchers from the Institute for Systems Biology and the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. It involved 105 subjects, all of whom had enrolled in a commercial wellness program and lost at least 1% of their body weight per month for a period of 6-12 months, maintaining a stable body mass index (BMI) during that same period of time.
Data collected from the subjects involved blood analysis, stool gene sequencing, and the taking of body weight measurements. Study participants also completed dietary questionnaires.
From the starting group of 105, 25 subjects were selected for a more thorough evaluation. Fifteen of these individuals had experienced weight loss and 10 had not. Researchers reviewed their protein markers, genetic profiles, obesity and cardiometabolic markers, and gut microbiome.
When looking at all participants, researchers found their expected results; namely, that subjects starting with higher BMIs typically lost more weight. Additionally, in accordance with previous research, individuals with a higher baseline BMI also had a slightly lower gene richness. For every unit increase in BMI, roughly 19 genes were lost.
Perhaps the most striking finding in this study was that, while only one of the 268 baseline proteins tested was independently associated with weight loss resistance, several of the 2,975 gene clusters found within gut bacteria were independently associated with BMI, weight loss, or both. In total, 31 gut genes were identified as having an effect, and their bacterial replication rates were “significantly higher” in subjects that had lost weight.
Researchers hypothesized that the slower replication rates in subjects more resistant to weight loss enabled the body to absorb more of the food products consumed before they could be transformed into by-products that were less dense in energy. Also, the weight loss group had lower levels of inflammatory proteins, which could further promote fermentative gut metabolism and homeostasis – producing the proper gut microbiome to lose weight.
Creating the proper gut microbiome to lose weight
This finding suggests that a gut microbiome that supports fermentative metabolism and faster bacterial rates may help improve weight loss results, regardless of starting BMI. If this is true, choosing foods that offer these effects may aid in the weight loss process.
Increasing intake of fermented foods can be achieved by consuming more cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kimchi, and some pickles. Though, Harvard Health warns that “not all fermented foods are created equal.”
It recommends that people choose food products that contain probiotics and that have been fermented with natural processes. This involves reading food labels to look for the phrase “naturally fermented.” If upon opening the product you see bubbles, this is another sign that it contains live organisms.
How does one achieve faster gut bacterial replication rates, thereby potentially boosting weight loss? This study’s authors suggest that, based on prior work, increasing fiber intake may help create the proper gut microbiome to lose weight.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics indicates that women should consume roughly 25 grams of fiber daily and men should aim for closer to 38 grams. This equates to approximately 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Many fruits and vegetables are higher in fiber, as are beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, and oats.
To maximize fiber consumption, the academy recommends consuming a fruit or vegetable’s skin or peel when possible. Also, foods that are less processed typically have a higher fiber content. So, choosing items that are close to their natural state can provide more fiber than choosing food items that have been heavily refined.
Patients who currently consume smaller amounts of fiber should be advised to increase their intake slowly to avoid gastrointestinal distress. Consuming more liquids helps as well, providing the fluids the body needs to move the fiber more effortlessly through the digestive tract.