Weight loss attempts are not working as intended? Time to pay attention to your gut microbiome, suggests a study

The COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent stay-at-home scenario forced people to focus on themselves again and choose healthy alternatives over a sedentary lifestyle. Some people have had great success at losing that extra grease mark, but others have been a little less successful. What could be the reason for this discrepancy? Although there could be several variables – including diet and exercise patterns – a new study says the gut microbiome’s genetic capacity is also an important factor that affects how much weight a person is likely to lose with simple lifestyle changes. The gut microbiome, with billions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, plays a key role in digestion. It also benefits the immune system.

The researchers studied 105 people on a commercial wellness program that included healthy lifestyle coaching. Half of them showed constant weight loss (1 percent of their body weight per month over 6–12 months), the other half maintained a stable body mass index (BMI).

The study was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s open access journal mSystems.

Those who lost weight slightly had higher rates of bacterial growth in their microbiome. They were also enriched with genes. Those who showed resistance to weight loss had lower bacterial growth rates and a higher capacity to break down non-absorbable fibers and starches into absorbable sugars, according to the study by researchers at the Institute of Systems Biology (ISB).

“In this study, we wanted to better understand the interactions between baseline BMI, metabolic health, diet, functional profiles of the gut microbiome, and subsequent weight changes in a human cohort subjected to healthy lifestyles. Overall, our results suggest that the microbiota can influence the host’s weight loss responses through variable bacterial growth rates, the efficiency of energy harvest in food, and immune modulation, ”said the researchers, led by Dr. Christian Diener.

The researchers said they looked at factors for successful weight loss that were independent of BMI. People with a higher baseline BMI lose more weight after an intervention. Studies have already shown that a change in diet can change the composition of the bacteria in the intestine. So this study shows that if a person’s bacterial genetic makeup is resisting weight loss, dietary changes may be helpful.

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