Unfortunately there is a wide-spread notion that people who are overweight or obese have no one to blame but themselves. Many people, including medical professionals, believe that fat people are fat because they have little self-control.
Our overweight friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors are frequent targets of discrimination.
This infuriates me.
The causes of obesity are multifaceted, and researchers are only just scratching the surface.
One of the less familiar causes of obesity is an imbalance of gut bacteria, known in the medical field as intestinal dysbiosis.
Our gut shelters approximately 100 trillion bacterial cells, most of which are located in the colon (the large intestine). Some of the bacteria are beneficial, some are neutral, and some are potentially harmful, and maintaining a balance is key to optimal health.
Dysbiosis occurs when there is a loss of beneficial bacteria, an overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria, and/or a loss of bacterial diversity.
Human and animal studies have demonstrated a loss of bacterial diversity and beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiota of obese individuals. And, researchers have observed a certain bacterial profile in obese subjects that is associated with chronic inflammation, and this chronic inflammation in turn drives the obese state.
Whether the observed changes in obese microbiotia are a cause or effect of obesity is debatable, but mice studies have shown that transferring microbiota from obese mice to lean mice caused lean mice to become obese and vice versa.
Another good illustration of how shifting the gut micorbiome can effect weight is to consider the use of antibiotics in animals to make them fat. I’ve seen this same effect in humans. Many of my pateints have reported rapid, uncontrollable weight gain after taking antibiotics.
Fortunately, gut bacteria and its impact on a variety of chronic inflammatory conditions is a very hot topic right now, and researchers are working hard to learn more about the ideal microbiota and how to achieve it.
In the meantime, eating a variety of whole or minimally processed plant foods, like whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and not too much sugar, animal fat or highly processed foods will help provide fuel for your beneficial bacteria and fight inflammation.