You’ve heard about the importance of gut bacteria for your health, right? Everybody’s talking about it. Looks like those guys have yet another role, this time to help maintain weight. More and more studies are confirming this fact.
Earlier this year, the journal Cell Reports published results of a study done among 16 brown bears.  You probably know that bears’ fat stores increase before hibernation in order to sustain them through the winter. So, check it out, this is so cool – the scientists measured the bears’ intestinal bacteria during the dead of winter, while they were hibernating, and found that the bears had increased numbers of certain bad bacteria and fewer friendly ones.
The scientists then took the bacteria, and injected it into mice that had been bred to be “germ-free,” meaning they had no bacteria of their own. In the absence of any changes to their diet or exercise, the mice gained weight!
After the bears woke up in the spring and had a couple of months to adjust to being active again, the scientists took more samples. This time, they found the opposite of what they’d seen during hibernation. The bears had decreased numbers of bad bacteria and increased numbers of the good.
Again, they tested with the germ-free mice. For the summer trial, they used two test groups, both the original group, as well as a second group that was also germ-free. When they injected the first group (the ones that had previously received the winter bacteria) with the non-hibernating samples, those mice lost the weight they had gained. The 2nd group of mice got the bears’ post hibernation bacteria (remember, these were full of friendly microbes) and they didn’t gain any weight.
From this, the scientists concluded that targeting the gut bacteria could be a way to approach obesity treatment in humans – but of course, more studies need to be done.
But even without the additional research on this topic, we know that increasing our friendly bacteria population is a good thing. And like so many other aspects of vibrant health, the place to start is diet. Good bacteria eat fiber, bad bacteria like processed foods and sugar. If you eat more vegetables and fewer processed foods, the good bacteria will proliferate, and crowd the bad guys out. And weight loss will follow.
And my personal take on this… Nature always knows best. How ingenious to have the bears’ gut populations and metabolisms change according to their seasonal behavior! Nature has provided us with an abundance of foods to keep our inner ecosystems healthy, and if we just follow that course, good health and slim bodies will happen naturally!