In 2012 the human microbiome was fully mapped and identified the multiple microbes that live in and on the human body. Our gut is where the largest concentration of microbes live in.
There is a lot of interest in the science world at the moment around the potential role of the gut microbiota in the development of obesity. One astonishing finding is that having the wrong kinds of gut flora could be a contributing factor and that obese individuals seem to have a lower variety of species living in their guts than non-obese individuals.
One particular study found that the ‘gut bugs’ transplanted from an obese mouse can make a lean mouse fat with a 60% increase in fat mass within 2 weeks, even though their dietary intake is similar. For humans, this could mean that a particular gut flora may contribute to weight gain even if they do not eat more than others. Each microbiota is also unique to each person.
How is this possible?
Studies reveal that certain microbes may alter energy absorption by the body. In simple terms, the composition of our microbiota can cause us to either absorb less, or more, energy from exactly the same plate of food.
Another hypothesis is that the wrong type of gut bacteria can affect our appetite and makes us crave foods that are high in sugars and therefore promote weight gain. On the other hand, increasing your intake of gut-friendly foods has also been shown to increase the production of appetite-suppressing hormones such as peptide YY.
What helps and harms your beneficial bacteria
Diet is an important factor in shaping the gut ecosystem. A diet of highly processed foods has been linked to a less diverse gut community in people whereas, a diet that incorporates a wide range of plants every day may help our beneficial gut bacteria to grow and thrive.