What makes one person more likely to gain weight over another? It’s not an easy question to answer. And while genetic and lifestyle factors undoubtedly come into play, a new study has found that gut health may be the biggest predictor of all.
According to researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine, when we consume high fat and high-calorie foods it causes the microbiome in our small intestine to expand. This typically occurs within 24 to 48 hours after eating and helps to create the digestive enzymes we need to break it all down.
The bad news? The more said food you chow down on, the more microbes you need to be able to process it. And once these microbes multiply, they don’t go away.
It’s a vicious cycle, but it doesn’t stop there, because these microbes need to be fed regularly. And the hungrier they are, the hungrier you are too.
“Our study is one of the first to show that specific small-bowel microbes directly regulate both digestion and absorption of lipids,” explained the study’s senior author, Dr Eugene B. Chang.
“This could have significant clinical applications, especially for the prevention and treatment of obesity and cardiovascular disease.”
He also added that these findings could have “important implications in developing approaches to combat obesity,” such as artificially decreasing the microbes responsible for fat absorption, or flooding the system with microbes that inhibit fat intake.
“I would say the most important takeaway overall is the concept that what we eat – our diet on a daily basis – has a profound impact on the abundance and the type of bacteria we harbour in our gut,” added Dr Kristina Martinez, another one of the study’s authors.
“These microbes directly influence our metabolism and our propensity to gain weight on certain diets.”