Why it’s hard to budge extra Xmas weight

By Drum Digital
02 January 2017

It’s an annual cycle; we pig out over the festive period and then clamp down hard on our New Year diet.

But new research suggests that overindulging can change the bacteria in our gut, which in turn makes it harder to shift weight.

To determine their results, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis took faecal samples from both people who ate a calorie-restricted, plant-rich diet and those who followed a typical, unrestricted American eating plan. It was found that those on the strict, healthy diet had more diverse microbiota (gut microorganisms).

The team then transplanted both sets of samples into mice. The mice then followed plant-based diets, but the ones who had the unhealthy samples in them responded less well to the new healthy meals. These mice needed certain bacteria to be lost before the plant-based eating plan started to work.

"If we are to prescribe a diet to improve someone's health, it's important that we understand what microbes help control those beneficial effects," said lead author Jeffrey Gordon. "And we've found a way to mine the gut microbial communities of different humans to identify the organisms that help promote the effects of a particular diet in ways that might be beneficial."

Jeffrey adds he hopes the research will pave the way for more informed diets, including adding probiotics to help get the gut bacteria working at its best.

"We have an increasing appreciation for how nutritional value and the effects of diets are impacted by a consumer's microbiota," he shared. "We hope that microbes identified using approaches such as those described in this study may one day be used as next-generation probiotics."

Results have been published in journal Cell Host & Microbe.

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