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Can Your Microbiome Increase Weight Gain From Processed Foods?

By Paula Vargas April 20, 2021

Can Your Microbiome Increase Weight Gain From Processed Foods?

According to a recent study published in Communications Biology, mice that contained particular fungi communities in their gut gained more weight over other mice who had different communities of fungi. It may suggest that your microbiome matters when processing food - specifically, the way your metabolism reacts to processed food.

What is the microbiome in your gut?

Your gut is essentially a living community of microorganisms. Traditionally, we associate bacteria with the gut microbiome (also called myocbiome), but fungi are important residents that can influence your health and vitality.

What was involved in the study?

The researchers used mice that were genetically identical from four separate companies. Each mouse had a different fungal microbiome. Over six weeks, the mice ate regular mouse food or highly-processed food (that resembles the 'typical American' diet).

Researchers measured the mice's body fat after six weeks, plus metabolic genes and hormones that play a role in how they process food.

Of particular interest were the foods that contained refined sugars, fats and ingredients like white flour - the typical culprits you'd imagine for unhealthy weight gain.

The processed food itself made the mice fatter. However, what changed was 1) how much weight gain occurred 2) how the different microbiomes had changed metabolism.

Finally, once researchers measured the microbiomes of the mice, research focused on which fungi had the most substantial influence on metabolism.

What was the result?

  • Mice fed the processed foods: Mice whose mycobiome contained more of the fungi named Thermomyces and fewer fungi called Saccharomyces gained 15% more weight than the other mice. Commercial manufacturers use Thermomyces to break down fat, and Saccharomyces are yeasts traditionally used in brewing and baking.

  • Mice fed the regular diet: Similar differences were shown but to a minor degree.

 What does this mean for you?

Aside from the obvious - processed foods contain higher calories and generally taste amazing (thus, you'll eat more) - your gut itself can also influence metabolism. Therefore, you may be gaining more fat by eating processed foods than other people - it just depends on your microbiome.

You should note that current research on the fungal microbiome is minimal - there is much to study regarding how they influence our health - both positively and negatively.

This study shows promise in that it may assist future researchers and nutritionists in planning diets tailored to your specific microbiome - meaning it's easier for you to stick to, and you'll gain better results from all your hard work. Plus, it'll be easier to maintain your weight over the long haul. Lastly, it may be possible to adjust your microbiome in certain situations, such as after weight-loss surgery.

Wins from science, wins for you and our global community!

References:

Mims, T.S., Abdallah, Q.A., Stewart, J.D. et al. The gut mycobiome of healthy mice is shaped by the environment and correlates with metabolic outcomes in response to diet. Commun Biol 4, 281 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-01820-z


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