Can gut health affect weight? Can prebiotic help with weight management?

July 13, 2023 3 min read

Can gut health affect weight? Can prebiotic help with weight management?

 

Yes, gut health can affect weight management. The gut microbiota, which refers to the community of microorganisms that inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract, plays a crucial role in regulating many aspects of human health, including weight management. The gut microbiota can influence weight management by regulating energy homeostasis, appetite control, and inflammation, among other mechanisms.

One of the key ways that the gut microbiota can influence weight management is through its role in regulating energy homeostasis, which is the balance between energy intake (food consumption) and energy expenditure (metabolic processes and physical activity). The gut microbiota can affect energy homeostasis by influencing the production of hormones that control appetite and food intake, the breakdown and absorption of nutrients from food, and the metabolism of dietary fats and carbohydrates.

Several studies have shown that the gut microbiota can influence body weight in both humans and animals. For example, a study by Turnbaugh et al. (2006) found that mice that were colonized with gut microbiota from obese humans gained more weight and had a higher body fat content than mice that were colonized with gut microbiota from lean humans, even when they were fed the same diet. This suggests that the gut microbiota from obese individuals may have a greater capacity to extract energy from food, leading to increased calorie absorption and weight gain.

On the other hand, some types of gut bacteria may promote weight loss or prevent weight gain. For example, a study by Cani et al. (2007) found that mice treated with prebiotics (non-digestible dietary fibers that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria) had a reduced body weight and improved glucose tolerance, compared to control mice. This was attributed to the prebiotics' ability to increase the abundance of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the gut, which are associated with improved metabolic health.

In addition to regulating energy homeostasis, the gut microbiota can also influence weight management by modulating inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with many metabolic disorders, including obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. The gut microbiota can influence inflammation by producing metabolites that interact with immune cells and by modulating the intestinal barrier function, which can impact the translocation of bacteria and their metabolites into the bloodstream and other tissues.

A study by Everard et al. (2013) found that mice treated with antibiotics to disrupt the gut microbiota had a higher body weight and increased insulin resistance, compared to control mice. This was attributed to the antibiotics' ability to alter the gut microbiota composition and reduce the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. These bacteria are known to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve glucose metabolism.

Moreover, a study by Cani et al. (2008) found that mice treated with SCFAs had a reduced body weight and improved glucose tolerance, compared to control mice. This was attributed to the SCFAs' ability to reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.

In addition to these mechanisms, the gut microbiota can also affect weight management through its influence on the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis refers to the bidirectional communication between the gut and the central nervous system, which is mediated by various neural, hormonal, and immune signaling pathways. The gut microbiota can affect the gut-brain axis by producing neurotransmitters and other signaling molecules that can influence mood, behavior, and appetite.

References:

  1. Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Mahowald MA, et al. An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature. 2006;444(7122):1027-1031.
  2. Cani PD, Delzenne NM. The role of the gut microbiota in energy metabolism and metabolic disease. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1546-1558.
  3. Cani PD, Dewever C, Delzenne NM. Inulin-type fructans modulate gastrointestinal peptides involved in appetite regulation (glucagon-like peptide-1 and ghrelin) in rats. Br J Nutr. 2004;92(3):521-526.
  4. Everard A, Lazarevic V, Derrien M, et al. Responses of gut microbiota and glucose and lipid metabolism to prebiotics in genetic obese and diet-induced leptin-resistant mice. Diabetes. 2011;60(11):2775-2786.
  5. Cani PD, Possemiers S, Van de Wiele T, et al. Changes in gut microbiota control inflammation in obese mice through a mechanism involving GLP-2-driven improvement of gut permeability. Gut. 2009;58(8):1091-1103.
  6. Cani PD, Amar J, Iglesias MA, et al. Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistance. Diabetes. 2007;56(7):1761-1772.
  7. Cani PD, Bibiloni R, Knauf C, et al. Changes in gut microbiota control metabolic endotoxemia-induced inflammation in high-fat diet-induced obesity and diabetes in mice. Diabetes. 2008;57(6):1470-1481.
  8. Tillisch K, Labus J, Kilpatrick L, et al. Consumption of fermented milk product with probiotic modulates brain activity. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(7):1394-1401.
  9. Zhao L. The gut microbiota and obesity: from correlation to causality. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2013;11(9):639-647.


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