Bulge battling bacteria!

by Denis Faye | November 12, 2009

As someone who is often asked nutrition questions, it’s painful when I’m cornered into admitting that, yes, you can eat a crappy diet and still lose weight, provided you maintain a calorie deficit.

But now a new study in the journal Science Translational Medicine (a title that completely baffles me, for the record) gives me new license to shout “No Twinkies for you!” at advice seekers. As it turns out, high-fat, high-sugar diets actually tweak the composition of intestinal bacteria, making it harder to lose weight. From the Los Angeles Times:

Humans need such bacteria to help convert otherwise indigestible foods into digestible form.

Ninety percent of the bacteria fall into two major divisions, or phyla: the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes. Previous research had shown that obese mice had higher levels of Firmicutes, and lean ones had more Bacteroidetes.

Analyzing the genomes of the bacteria, Gordon and graduate student Peter Turnbaugh concluded that the Firmicutes were more efficient at digesting food that the body can’t.

Animals that have a higher proportion of Firmicutes convert a higher proportion of food into calories that can be absorbed by the body, making it easier to gain weight.

Gordon and Turnbaugh continued the research by transferring bacteria back and forth between humans and mice to learn that mice with lousy diets had more Firmicutes in their guts, so they were more prone to weight gain. I’m glad they found what they found, but I think they need to stop this cross-species research before they accidentally create a hideous mouse mutant that will kill us all. Seriously, didn’t these scientists see Gnaw: Food of the Gods II?

Anyway, the take-away here is that if you’re trying to lose weight, it seems that the same calorie amount from healthy foods will actually be more effective because you’ll have bacteria on your side.

Of course, that’s all moot if we’re overrun by giant killer mice with intestinal complaints. Run while you can.

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One thought on “Bulge battling bacteria!

  1. screwdestiny

    Very cool research. Besides, if you’re eating crap you’re always gonna be hungry ’cause one meal from McDonald’s is gonna provide all your calories for the day. And who wants to only eat one meal a day?


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