Can you REALLY lose weight if you go on a healthy diet? A fecal sample may hold the answer
09/21/2017 // Cassie B. // Views

If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get the same results your friend did by following a healthy diet, the answer could lie in your feces.

As unappetizing as it may sound, Danish scientists have found important differences between the fecal samples of people who lost weight following a healthy diet and those who did not.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that gut bacteria is vital in determining a person’s nutritional needs and potential for obesity. The scientists from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports carried out a study on 62 participants who had big waist circumferences. A group of 31 subjects followed the Danish national recommendations known as the New Nordic Diet, which includes consuming a lot of a lot of dark green vegetables, berries, whole grains and fiber. Twenty-three subjects, meanwhile, ate an average Danish diet, which is high in foods like lean meat, lettuce, coffee and eggs and low in grains and fiber. Measurements were taken after 26 weeks.

The average weight loss was 1.8 kilos more among those who followed the New Nordic Diet, but they also discovered something far more interesting: When they divided the subjects based on their level of intestinal bacteria, those who had a higher proportion of a bacteria called Prevotella in relation to their levels of Bacteroides bacteria lost 3.5 kilograms more on the Nordic Diet than those who ate the average Danish diet. Meanwhile, those who had a low proportion of Prevotella to Bacteroides did not lose additional weight following the New Nordic Diet. The scientists report that around half of the population has the high proportion that was so favorable to weight loss. Two independent studies have confirmed the results.


Assistant Professor Mads Fiil Hjorth, who worked on the study, said that those who are unlikely to lose weight from this change of diet should instead focus on getting more physical activity and other dietary approaches until they find a strategy that works for them.

Biomarkers allow for individualized approaches

The study is also important because it shows that biomarkers like blood and fecal samples deserve a more prominent role in our nutritional guidance because it allows for a far more individualized approach.

Hjorth said: "This is a major step forward in personalized nutritional guidance. Guidance based on this knowledge of intestinal bacteria will most likely be more effective than the 'one size fits all' approach that often characterizes dietary recommendations and dietary guidance,"

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Don't discount the importance of optimal gut health

Past studies have illustrated the strong influence that gut bacteria has on a person’s weight. For example, a 2013 study from Washington University in St. Louis revealed that maintaining balanced and healthy gut bacteria can prevent weight gain and fight obesity. The scientists reached this conclusion after a study in which the gut bacteria from four pairs of twins (with one pair being identical) in which one was obese and the other was lean was implanted into the intestines of mice. Those who had been given the gut bacteria from obese people gained more weight than other mice and underwent strong metabolic changes that adversely impacted their health.

The bottom line is that gut bacteria plays a much bigger role in our health than once believed, and it’s time that people focus more on keeping their gut bacteria as healthy as possible by consuming plenty of vegetables and fiber and limiting processed foods, all types of sugar, and antibiotics.

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