Your body contains millions and millions of bacteria. In a person who weighs 70g, it’s estimated that there are approximately 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body and only 30 trillion human cells. Gross, right?
Well, not exactly. While the concept of trillions of tiny organisms using your body as a cosy home might be creepy when taken out of context, the bacteria and microorganisms living on your skin and inside your body play a vital role. Most of these bacterial cells are located in your intestines, where they play a crucial part in your health and your immune system.
The bacteria in your gut, and by extension your gut health, can affect your weight. They affect how different foods are digested and they produce chemicals that help you to feel full. It’s crucial to ensure that you understand how what you eat affects your gut, and that you’re eating foods that will promote healthy gut bacteria growth.
What are gut bacteria?
Most of the trillions of bacteria in your gut live in a section of your large intestine named the cecum. The hundreds of different kinds of bacteria carry out essential tasks which keep you healthy, such as producing vitamin K, and communicate with your immune to help you fight off disease and infection.
More pertinently for losing weight, they come into contact with food you eat and affect how it’s digested, affecting the nutrients you’re able to absorb and how energy is stored in your body.
How does gut health affect weight loss?
Fascinatingly, a study which examined 77 pairs of twins, one of whom was obese and one of whom was not, found that the obese twins not only had different gut bacteria but a lower diversity of gut bacteria. Another study showed that if gut bacteria from obese people was transplanted into mice, the mice then start to gain weight. This suggests a correlation between gut bacteria and weight, which may be due to the differing effects of the bacteria on different types of food.
One example of this is the fact that humans by themselves can’t digest fibre, but certain kinds of gut bacteria can. When the bacteria digest fibre, they produce chemicals which benefit overall gut health and possibly promote weight loss. It’s been shown that people with a high fibre intake tend to weigh less.
Another study discovered that the ratio of two different kinds of intestinal bacteria could determine the amount of weight you lose when you go on a diet. Bacteroidetes, which people who eat more animal protein and fat have more of, and Prevotella, which digests fibre and carbohydrates, were measured in a study where participants ate a high fibre wholegrain diet for 26 weeks. Those with higher levels of Prevotella lost 2.3kg more than those with more Bacteroidetes in their gut.
The bacteria in your gut is also crucial in the digestion of certain types of antioxidants called flavonoids, which could help to prevent weight gain.
Hungry or full? Your gut bacteria have the answers
Hormones are to your appetite what protein is to muscle growth - essential and non-negotiable. Your body produces hormones, including leptin, peptide YY (PYY) and ghrelin, to regulate your appetite, and studies have shown that the differing amount of bacteria in your gut can affect this production, thus determining whether you feel satiated or hungry.
One study showed that adults who took propionate, a short-chain fatty acid which is produced when certain kinds of gut bacteria break down fibre, had increased levels of two kinds of hormone which affect hunger levels. Participants lost weight and reduced the amount of food they ate.
What to eat for good gut health
In short, we might not fully comprehend the role gut bacteria has on weight loss and diet, but it’s definitely something that’s worth keeping in mind. To that end, we developed The Lean Protein, a protein supplement crafted to help you slim down. It’s designed to support the metabolization of fat, reduce your cravings and support muscle repair and growth. On top of all of that, it contains inulin and pomegranates, two ingredients which have been shown to improve gut health.
Inulin is a prebiotic fibre which encourages the growth of the kind positive gut bacteria linked to lower fat levels in the body. We included pomegranate because of its punicalagin and ellagic acid content. These substances are retained in the gut, where they encourage the growth of gut bacteria which have been linked to lower levels of fat.
There are a number of foods to include in your diet if you’re focusing on improving and maintaining good gut health.
- Fruits and vegetables contain lots of different types of fibre, which support positive gut bacteria. Eating lots of different kinds of plant-based foods can help to increase your gut bacteria diversity, which promotes a healthy weight.
- Whole grains are also high in fibre and are digested by the bacteria Bifidobacteria, and may help with losing weight.
- Foods rich in Polyphenol, including green tea, red wine and dark chocolate, are digested by the good kind of bacteria and promote the growth of even more.
- Fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha contain bacteria such as lactobacilli which are beneficial and can even minimise the type of gut bacteria which can cause disease.