The secret to a flat belly might be inside of it. Researchers have discovered that the amount and type of gut bacteria you have can help you lose weight, especially belly fat.
In fact, the proof is in the….fermented milk? Consider this study: Japanese researchers gave 87 overweight individuals 100 grams of fermented milk twice a day. The milk consumed by half the group contained the bacteria Lactobacillus gasseri. After 12 weeks those individuals lost an average of 2.2 pounds—and there was no weight loss in the other group.
Losing two pounds in 12 weeks may not seem like a lot, but consider this: The Lactobacillus group also lost 4.6 percent of their visceral fat (the unhealthy fat that surrounds your internal organs) and 3.3 percent of their subcutaneous fat (the unflattering “visible” fat that hangs off us in the form of muffin tops and bat wings). They lost ¾ inch off their hips and ½ inch off their waists— all without dieting or exercising any differently than the control group.
Gut Bacteria, Weight Loss and Energy
Researchers explain the results by suggesting that the presence of Lactobacillus gasseri caused study participants to absorb less fat in their intestines during digestion. I think there’s probably a lot more to the story.
There's a bustling ecosystem inside our bodies and research on the health benefits of gut flora—and their many complex interactions with human cells—has only scratched the surface. We have a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with these microscopic bugs that we take for granted.
Just recently researchers discovered these microbes supply the body with energy by using their enzymes—ones we don’t have—to break down various plant compounds we eat. It also appears that they share their genes with us. We actually incorporate beneficial genetic material from these microbes into our own cells.
For example, one recent study found that the Japanese have microbes in their guts that break down complex molecules in seaweed. It’s an ability Americans don’t have, one that evolved after years of repeated exposure to seaweed.
When you take a more serious look at just how vital our intestinal flora is to our health, it becomes easier to understand why we are experiencing such dramatic increases in problems such as inflammatory bowel disease and allergies.
In the mean time, you can add weight loss to the long list of reasons to balance your gut bacteria with probiotic supplements and fermented foods!
Eur J Clin Nutr 2010 March 10. E-pub ahead of print PMID:20216555