I got this emailed to me from a site that sells yogurt, but the information could be good news for people who are trying to keep the weight off as the research into other food increases.
by Vicki Koenig, MS, RD, CDN
Why are Americans so overweight? It may be due to the bacteria in our intestines.
Treatment of obesity may someday include altering your intestinal bacteria. Ever notice how some people can eat anything and not gain weight, while others eat small amounts and still gain? It may have to do with their intestinal microorganisms; good and bad.
There is new research suggesting just this. Scientists are seeing how bacteria can alter carbohydrate metabolism and how that impacts how calories are absorbed. No wonder yogurt is always thought of as a good diet food! Probiotics (beneficial cultures in yogurt) help suppress bad bacteria.
Two aspects to how bacteria can affect our energy balance.
Bacteria help us absorb nutrients from our food. There are certain microbes and viruses that seem to make people absorb more calories.
Inulin as a prebiotic increases the growth of the probiotics especially Bifidobacteria. With more probiotics, there are potentially fewer microbes. Inulin as a fiber encourages the production of an intestinal protein or peptide that communicates to the brain, which then tells us to stop eating.
Microbe obesity does not mean fat bacteria but can mean bacteria that make you fat. In August 2006, the cover story for the New York Times Magazine was on “Microbesity?” This article describes the research being done around the U.S. on a microbial theory of obesity. Preliminary research shows that fat mice have a different balance of bacteria than lean mice. Humans are known to have the same kind of bacteria present.
The presence of a common virus has been shown to be associated with obesity in lab animals and new research may suggest the same in humans. Over time, relatively minor differences in bacterial content may predispose some individuals to obesity. Researchers are beginning to study the bacterial makeup in humans but future treatment strategies are not known yet.
The Difference with Inulin
Inulin plays a unique role because it’s a fiber and a prebiotic. Inulin alters the carbohydrate metabolism while it changes the bacterial make-up in the gut.
At a conference on inulin held at the Harvard Medical School in September 2006, experimental data was presented. Research shows that the special kind of inulin that Stonyfield Farm uses in its yogurt can improve glucose tolerance, fasting blood glucose, with reduced body weight gain.
Inulin contributes to a feeling of satiety, meaning you’re satisfied enough to stop eating. Preliminary human studies show that inulin-supplemented diets lowered total food intake by about 10% in healthy volunteers. Inulin stimulates creation of gut peptides, associated with an enhanced ability to handle carbohydrates for a period of time after eating the inulin. Most studies have been done with animals but a few human studies are showing promising results.