Did you know that a healthy gut microbiome is an essential part of your weight management journey? We have a mutualistic relationship with our gut whereby our health can benefit from a diverse gut microbiome. Food is the main source of fuel for our gut flora; both food and our gut microbiome therefore have a role to play in our unique metabolism and overall state of health.
Is there an ‘overweight’ gut microbiome?
Studies have proven that gut microbiome profiles in individuals at a healthy weight differ from those of individuals who are overweight or obese. For example, a higher Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio is more common in individuals with an increased BMI, compared to people with moderate weight. Elevated levels of Firmicutes are thus a potential marker of obesity. Overweight individuals also tend to have a less diverse gut microbiome, which increases the risk of gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome) and low-level intestinal inflammation.
How can I manage my weight with my gut microbiome?
Given the close relationship between food and the gut microbiome, certain dietary choices may promote reduced weight gain in the long term via alterations to the gut microbiome.
Increase your fibre intake
A high fibre diet with foods such as whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables have been linked to increased levels of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, propionate. SCFAs are mainly produced by the gut microbiome in the large intestine by bacterial fermentation of resistant starch and dietary fibre. SCFAs aid in the regulation of the gut microbiome and stabilisation of the intestinal barrier, suppressing intestinal inflammation, and improving insulin sensitivity. Research has found that anthocyanins in purple sweet potato induced growth of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus/Enterococcus spp. The SCFAs produced by these bacteria had a prebiotic-like effect on gut health.
An apple a day
Non-absorbable procyanidins in apples have been shown to increase the proportion of beneficial gut bacteria – specifically A.Muciniphila, and decrease the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes in mice, positively impacting gut health. A.Muciniphila is associated with improved lipid regulation and SCFA production, which lowers the risk of fat accumulation in the body and obesity. Similar procyanidins can be found in grapes and cranberries.
No, that isn’t an oxymoron. The type of fat we consume in our diet has an impact on our gut microbiome as well! In particular, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have shown to positively impact the gut microbiome by boosting levels of SCFA producing A.Muciniphila.
In preliminary studies, a higher omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3 PUFA) content in muscle tissue has also been shown to decrease E.coli and increase growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Evidence suggests that intake of dietary PUFAs decreases risk of weight gain and cardiovascular heart disease, through modification of components of the intestinal wall. Examples of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include oily fish (salmon, mackerel), walnuts and flaxseeds. In comparison, consuming a diet high in saturated fats lowers the abundance of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and leads to an increase in Bilophila and risk of intestinal barrier dysfunction and inflammation, negatively impacting gut health.
Fermented foods such as tempeh may help you maintain a healthy weight! Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian fermented soybean cake that has been shown to increase bifidobacterium (a type of gut bacteria that is good for gut health), enhance lipid metabolism, and decrease total cholesterol levels. Tempeh is also rich in soluble fibers. Current research suggests that consumption of tempeh over a prolonged period of time boosts levels of Bifidobacterium and A.Muciniphila. This may be due to the presence of polyphenols in tempeh.
Can you change your gut microbiome?
It is possible for an individual’s gut microbiome to change depending on how they change their long-term diet. Short-term dietary changes are unlikely to change one’s gut microbiome. Geographic relocation, if long-term, will have an impact on an individual’s gut flora due to major changes in diet (if the individual changes their diet). In this way, geography does in fact have an impact on the gut microbiome.
No Guts, No Glory,
BIO & ME Team
Your Gut Health Expert