You’ve followed the diets, you’ve increased your exercise, and you still can’t lose weight. The problem may be related to the composition of your gut bacteria.
Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss
In a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers found evidence pointing to gut bacteria, “gut microbiota” hindering weight loss. People who were interested in losing weight and enrolled a lifestyle intervention program at the Mayo Clinic were involved in the study. At the beginning of the lifestyle intervention program, fecal stool samples were obtained from everyone and analyzed. Then they spent three months engaged in the lifestyle intervention. “Success” of the intervention was defined as achieving a loss of at least 5 percent of their weight when they began.
Researchers compared the gut microbiota of the people who were able to lose at least 5 percent of their weight versus those who did not achieve that “success.” Participants who had an abundance of the bacteria Phascolarctobacterium were more likely to be in the “success” group. The participants who had an abundance of the bacteria, Dialister, were in the group that did not lose at least 5 percent of their weight. Further evaluation uncovered that the people who were not in the “success” group also had microbiota with genes that produced more enzymes to break down carbohydrates. In other words, the people who had trouble losing weight had bacteria in their gut that were extremely effective in breaking down carbohydrates.
Addressing Fat Stigma
The stigma associated with being overweight or obese is pervasive in our culture. The funny person on television and in the movies is overweight. Magazines covers display thin as the normative for women and men. One study had students watch the program, “The Biggest Loser,” a television “reality” show in which people are put through grueling regimes for rapid weight loss; a control group watched a nature program. After watching the researchers compared attitudes around obesity and overweight. Those who watched “The Biggest Loser,” had higher levels of dislike of overweight people. They also found that those students who were not themselves trying to lose weight believed that people who can’t lose weight aren’t trying hard enough.
In healthcare, disparities exist for people who are overweight or obese. Many studies have found women less likely to receive pap smears, mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings. The “fat stigma” can be extremely stressful and harmful both physiologically and psychologically.
This Mayo Clinic research is an important step in learning what is really behind weight gain and weight loss. For those who are interested in losing weight, could fecal transplant be the answer? And could this research finally end the victim blaming that exists in healthcare as well as society at large?
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