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"Thin people have more gut microbes than fat people"

amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
"Thin people have more gut microbes than fat people; having hungry microbes may at least partly account for thinness."
Says Bill Bryson in the book "The Body".

What are your thoughts?


  • amandaeveamandaeve Member Posts: 706 Member Member Posts: 706 Member
    The book has dozens of pages of citations, but they aren't linked. I'm certain he didn't do research on his own, the book reads like an overview. I thought it would be easier to find someone with knowledge of the claim here than that filter through each of his citations and read the study once I found it (yes, I'm lazy today, which is why I'm reading a book instead of something more ambitious).
  • MaltedTeaMaltedTea Member, Premium Posts: 1,651 Member Member, Premium Posts: 1,651 Member
    The microbiome is a thing and is being researched. For example, there are peer-reviewed articles in print and underway for a number of autoimmune diseases (with human participants, as opposed to mice, monkeys, etc). I'm sure there are other potential health implications under study as well.

    The controversy here, for me, is "thin" vs. "fat."

    Also, no shade, but I'd rather that adult science communicators have graduated from university.

    If you're interested in this topic @amandaeve then there are other people in this genre, with established credentials but who use accessible/lay language. For example, Eric Topol, M.D. was talking about the microbiome (in passing) in "The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care" (2011).

    Since then, he has talked about it more often. Coincidentally, I'm rereading this book as of yesterday which is the only reason I can mention the above lol There are so many other reputable speakers on this topic, however, and perhaps some of their names will surface in this thread.
    edited June 28
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 15,577 Member Member, Premium Posts: 15,577 Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    gut biome = click bait = sales/trend


    What we do know is that diet affects gut biome. Generally people who eat more diverse diets with lots of different kinds of plants and fiber have more diverse gut biomes. On average, people who eat lots of fruit and veg and more fiber may be thinner, but not always and it's not like one just happens to have a thin person or fat person gut biome.

    This is my understanding, too. While there are some indications that a diverse gut microbiome may be a good thing, IMU the science isn't clear about details yet (which bugs are good, and why; which way the correlation arrows point among factors for which broad studies show correlation; which bugs do what, and the related question of which ones, or which mix, would be beneficial vs. neutral vs. harmful; and more).

    Personally, I consider it a good bet-hedge to eat plenty of diverse pre-biotic foods (the kind that the microbiome seems to like to munch on, to stay happy) and diverse traditional probiotic foods that humans have consumed for centuries or millennia (raw sauerkraut/kimchi or other fermented pickles; unpasteurized vinegar; miso; yogurt, kefir, and other fermented dairy products; etc.). I don't see how it will harm me, and it might help . . . and happily, those are foods that I find tasty, and they're nutritious. For me, there's no obvious downside.

    In Bryson's sentence you quote, the word "may" is really, really important. So is the word "partly". I think he's right.

    A diverse gut microbiome "may" also affect mood, cognition, other health conditions, and a litany of other stuff. This will be a fruitful area for research for some time to come, and I'm betting we'll learn some really useful things about human bodies and our symbionts, along the way.

    As far as I can see, the only actionable aspect of any of this now is nearly 100% duplicative of things we already know are good for us on the basis of well-understood nutritional recommendations alone.

    The only zone for disagreement about that, that I can see, is whether it's worthwhile to take compounded probiotic supplements, i.e., just collections of baby bugs. I don't. Other people do; some find them personally beneficial.
  • threewinsthreewins Member Posts: 511 Member Member Posts: 511 Member
    The whole digestive bacteria issue is too new and controversial for some of the folks at my fitness pal. They won't accept that a fecal transplant from a thin mouse to an obese mouse results in it getting thin.

    However one online comment from years ago has stayed with me. How will the thinness causing bacteria react to junk food? Each bacteria has a preferred type of food to munch on. Will eating copious amounts of junk food kill off the thin bacteria? They thrived on a healthy diet. That's gone.

    Anyway fecal transplant research for weight loss is advancing glacially slowly, it would not surprise me if 10 years from now it hasn't advanced past tiny human trials.
  • shaumomshaumom Member Posts: 947 Member Member Posts: 947 Member
    The idea of 'hungry microbes' sounds ridiculous, honestly.

    But there's a lot of research out there right now about weight and our gut biome that are pretty interesting. And some of them might end up being pretty significant, even if many are still only suggestive of things that we need to research in the future.

    Colonies of Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria release certain proteins when they’ve had enough nutrients and these can activate appetite-related neurons to make you feel full. So you're likely to eat less.

    Obesity seems to correlate with lower diversity of gut bacteria (not levels, but strains of) - they don't know why.

    Human twins' gut bacteria - one obese and one not - were injected into mice with no gut bacteria, and the mice would develop weight to match the gut bacteria donor's. Not sure why, but it had an impact.

    A mouse study found that "the gut microbiota is an important environmental factor that affects energy harvest from the diet and energy storage in the host." Or basically, gut bacteria might alter our fat storage.

    There's more on studies looking at weight and bacteria that digest more fiber, weight and the ratios between certain bacteria in the gut, all sorts of things.

    So while the theory 'The Body' author had seems crap, the concept that our gut biome may have an impact on a lot of how the body works has been gaining traction for a number of years now (the gut is also being looked at for its impact on food allergies and auto-immune diseases, too).
    edited July 7
  • FibroHikerFibroHiker Member Posts: 279 Member Member Posts: 279 Member
    The real question is what came first, the chicken or the egg? Does a diverse gut biome help someone to be thin or do thin people just have a more diverse gut because their guts are healthy? I think thin people are more likely to have healthy guts.

    Inflammation in the gut can cause leptin resistance which can lead to weight gain. Leptin is a hormone your body releases that inhibits hunger. In people who have an inflamed gut their body may not be adequately absorbing nutrients due to the inflammation. The lack of proper nutrition may lead to leptin resistance. The body may be releasing leptin but the brain doesn't recognize it the same way during leptin resistance causing hunger sensations to be present for a longer period of time or to be present again very soon after eating. It's pretty hard to stay thin or even maintain weight when you're hungry all the time.

    But how does a person develop the inflammation in the gut? Was it a toxic gut biome due to a lack of diverse flora that caused inflammation, or was the inflammation caused by consumption of things the body does not tolerate well leading to an inflammatory response?

    For me, I discovered (over a very lengthy process of trial and error) that I was causing my own gut to be inflamed because I was consuming foods I shouldn't and they were irritating my intestines. The inflammation led to my leptin resistance and I was hungry all the time. I had to eat once every two hours to stave off hunger, sometimes every 90 minutes. There were times when eating a meal would not get rid of the hunger signals at all and I would stay hungry until the next meal. I told my doctor that the only other time I had felt this way was when I was pregnant. My DO said it was just hormone fluctuations with aging. There was no way I could maintain my weight while I was experiencing these hunger pains.

    I went on a restricted diet because my husband needed to do so due to his intestinal problems. It actually helped me more than it helped him. It reduced sensitivities in my intestines that I didn't know I had and my gut healed in about 6 weeks. I didn't lose a lot of weight during that time but dropped 4.5 inches off my waist and my hunger issues faded too. I don't have to eat every two hours any more. I sleep better and have more energy. I also have less pain overall in my body.

    If having a healthy gut biome was all it would take to heal my unhealthy gut (and reverse my leptin resistance from inflammation) leading towards beging thin then adding probiotics and prebiotics to my diet would have helped me. Instead when I tried this it actually gave me diarrhea (every single time).

    In studies where individuals had a diverse gut biome it showed that those individuals had a very diverse diet (like the Hadza). But I don't eat a more diverse diet now than I did before. If anything my diet is now highly restrictive. I am now losing the weight I gained because I now know the specific cause of my weight gain. As we all know, many people have different causes and there is never one solution for weight gain difficulties.

    Having a higher level of diverse flora in the gut of thinner people may be looking at one of the benefits of having a healthy gut but not necessarily the causality of being thin. Healthy guts don't have inflammation and might be able to support a wider variety of gut flora than inflamed guts.
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