Can Gut Flora Impact Your Weight?

by Deedra Mason, Director of Clinical Education & Research

Many of us are under the impression that our gut and its flora are in poor health due to being overweight, however it could be the other way round. Perhaps you’re overweight because your gut and its flora are unbalanced.

Healthy gut flora can greatly assist with “whittling that waist”. Studies aren’t yet clear on which particular species are important, but one thing is certain — slender people and obese people have different gut flora. The literature in these studies also supports the use of probiotics for maintaining a healthy weight.

The researchers reported that, “even though diet will affect gut flora composition, most studies conclude that gut flora on its own has an effect on weight. Alteration of the gut microbiota can be an important part of a weight loss program.”

The best solution to reducing your gut flora woes is the use of probiotics, which may assist the gut in gaining energy from polysaccharides (sugar-based carbohydrates). This helps the body with its insulin sensitivity, as well as how the body handles inflammation and energy use. Several mechanisms are thought to influence how gut flora regulates weight. Inflammation, energy from polysaccharides, insulin sensitivity and energy expenditure and storage are all affected by gut flora.

In conclusion, while a healthy diet improves overall well-being; having a poor gut flora balance may lead to sugar cravings and food cravings, thus playing a significant role in our food choices.

Interesting Side Note: In another study, researches at Harvard found that children born via C-section were twice as likely to be overweight, because they did not have the benefits or the exposure to the flora through the birth canal.

Obesity alters gut microbial ecology.Ley, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2005 Aug 2; 102(31):11070-11075
Vael C, Verhulst SL, Nelen V, et al. Intestinal microflora and body mass index during the first three years of life: an observational study. Gut Pathog. 2011 May 23;3(1):8.
Kalliomaki M., Collado M.C, Salminen S., et al. Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight