Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Microbiome and Obesity

A Healthy Microbiome Keeps You Lean.

Richard H. Bennett Ph.D., Applied Life Sciences LLC

The title of this blog may incite some earnest skepticism as the benefits of a healthy microbiome are aggressively promoted for just about all body systems.   However, rest assured that HATS (human-adapted targeted synbiotics) microbes do have a considerable role in whole-body health and wellness.    Are you concerned about health threats today from the long-term consumption of simple sugars and processed fats?  We should be concerned, as obesity and metabolic syndrome are pandemic.  It is here the gut microbiome plays a huge role, and interventions are within our grasp.

The statistics on obesity and diabetes blaze the headlines regularly.  Walkthrough a public place and try to ignore what is happening.  We are getting huge by overfeeding the wrong microbes in our gut.  Of course, it is not that simple, yet excessive calories from sugars and fats have pervasive effects on the body.  One of the more dire consequences is Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes.   It is a considerable risk factor for the chronic diseases that ravage people and society. It is one reason that the United States has the highest per capita medical costs of all developed nations (2).

A 2012 scientific review entitled, Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity and diabetes, Dr. Paul Marik (1) provides some powerful insights into the microflora and its role in lean and not so lean people. From previous blog postings, we note that the gut is populated with ten trillion microbes.  Ninety percent of these are of the Bacteroides and Firmicutes group or phyla.   It is these two groups that our diet and other factors profoundly influence their populations. Diet affects the type of bacteria in the gut and their metabolic functions.   Some messengers or metabolites of these functions, in turn, influence the metabolism toward weight gain from fat creation.  Other messengers promote leaner body mass through unique metabolic pathways.

We evolved and have adaptations for periods of food scarcity.   Today we consume an abundance of inexpensive energy-dense foods.  These "junk" foods are packed with sweet, addictive simple sugars and fats.   At the same time, our diets are virtually devoid of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  As such, the diet promotes the Firmicutes and drive their metabolism that promotes the caloric energy to fat storage. The third whammy is the microbial promotion of host cell genes that enhance fatty acid absorption, fat creation (lipogenesis), and storage.  Obese people have far more Firmicutes and few Bacteroides.  After a long period of fat and carbohydrate-restricted diets, the ratio resembles that of lean people.  The sugar fermenting Firmicutes decreased quite significantly.

Whole foods high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and soluble fiber, some of which have prebiotic functions, have the opposite effect on microbes and the utilization of dietary calories. In particular, the Bifidobacteria were far more numerous in people with high fiber diets.  Recall, the Bifidobacteria inoculate neonates during standard vaginal delivery.  These bacteria thrive on the prebiotic carbohydrates naturally occurring in colostrum and milk.   Overweight mothers have fewer Bifidobacteria to provide to the newborn, and just maybe one reason some infants tend to mature into heavy adolescents.

The gut and its microbes play a huge role in the creation of inflammatory mediators and whole-body inflammation syndromes.   Imbalance of the microbiome or dysbiosis promotes gram-negative bacteria growth.   These bacteria produce endotoxins.  It is endotoxins that can cause sepsis and death during severe infections.  People with low-level endotoxemia risk systemic and liver inflammation.    The metabolites of Bifidobacteria, specific short-chain fatty acids improve the intestinal barrier and reduce endotoxin absorption.  A high fiber diet combined with HATS Bifidobacteria may be our best ally combating Metabolic Syndrome.

Figure 1. How high sugar low fiber diet alters microbes and health

The diet promotes endotoxin producing bacteria and causes leaky gut allowing the toxin to be absorbed and target all organs in the body.

Synbiotics such as Preobiotic contain  HATS microbes with known and documented metabolic and anti-inflammatory actions.  When combined with low glycemic carbohydrates (carbohydrates that do not significantly raise blood sugar) and a lower-fat diet has the distinct potential to help prevent and reverse the ill effects of the Western Diet.

This recommendation is useful and of minimal cost, yet the medical community is reticent to recommend it.  Absent an FDA approved Synbiotic drug, doctors are insecure about this simple regimen, all the while prescribing expensive “statins” and other drugs approved to treat the signs of metabolic syndrome.  These drugs come with a myriad of documented adverse side effects (3)

A healthy microbiome diet costs less than the junk food diet and well researched synbiotic cost less than a Statin or other 
drugs used for metabolic syndrome, so what are we waiting for?


(1)         Marik, P. E., 2012, Colonic flora, probiotics, obesity, and diabetes. Frontiers in Endocrinology 3: article 87
(3)        Adverse effects of statins BMJ 2014348 doi:

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