I’m sure you’ve heard the mantra, “It all comes down to energy in, energy out, to reducing calories and increasing exercise.” But, while simple to spout, it is not the complete truth. In fact, it may be nowhere near it. I believe that this judgmental soundbite can disempower, dismiss and overlook an important answer in the journey to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
Why is this seemingly common sense statement wrong?
There are numerous reasons including one that is crucial: Gut health. The gut bugs that live within the digestive system, called the microbiota, are extensive in amount and form. They outnumber human cells, the shear amount of their DNA dwarfs ours, and their interactions with our body proper are intimate and far reaching. This includes effects on body weight.
The digestive system is highly complex and we have only begun to tap at the surface of understanding. However, continual research is revealing more about how the bugs that live in our gut matter to our size. Probiotics shown in this study seem to be lower in people who are overweight or obese. Those with a higher body mass index (BMI) appear to have reduced levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Flavonifractor plautii. The evidence is building.
We have several obvious options for improving gut health and the microscopic entities that live there. We can enhance our diet and exercise, reduce our stress and alcohol intake, and supplement with pre and probiotics. Let’s consider the latter two.
The weight loss benefits of prebiotics
Prebiotics are “A non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health.” In simple terms, prebiotics are the food that the microbiota feast on.
Prebiotics are found naturally within a range of foods including asparagus, banana, beans, chicory, dandelion greens, honey, garlic, leek, Jerusalem artichoke, oats, peas and seaweed. They also come in supplemental form.
Supplemental prebiotics have been shown to increase feelings of fullness, reduce the amount of energy consumed, lower inflammatory markers (obesity is an inflammatory state) and decrease body weight.
The weight loss benefits of probiotics
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” By taking a probiotic, you directly consume healthy bugs. To aid weight loss, however, the strain or strains you take must be specific.
One study showed that supplementing with probiotics helped women to lose weight, particularly by reducing their fat mass. An article published in the journal Nutrition showed that the Bifidobacterium Lactis strain was able to lower BMI and levels of inflammatory markers. As inflammation is linked to metabolic syndrome and obesity, this may explain one mechanism by which probiotics decrease body fat. A further study demonstrated the fat loss benefits of functional yoghurt that has been enhanced with several probiotics. Yet another revealed that fermented milk that contained Lactobacillus Gasseri was able to reduce body weight, especially the dangerous visceral type of fat.
How can probiotics reduce body weight?
To discover how probiotics aid weight loss read the article Do Probiotics Help With Weight Loss.
As you can see, the calories in, calories out mantra is simplistic and significantly flawed. By harnessing the power of a healthy gut and the microbiota that live within it we can reduce overweight and obesity and provide therapeutic options to maintain that lost weight.