What if there was a diet created specifically for you, designed to work with your body to help you lose weight? It sounds like the stuff of late-night infomercials, but it may soon become a reality. New research shows that it's possible to tailor dietary advice according to each person's individual gut bacteria composition.
Researchers have recently identified how the bacteria in the gut react during metabolism, giving better information about how each person's diet affects weight and future risk for disease. They have developed a formula that can be used to predict how different patients will respond to dietary changes based on the composition of their internal bacteria.
Health experts are beginning to understand the role of microorganisms in the gut. There are as many as 1,000 different types of bacteria inside an individual's digestive system. Each affects metabolism differently. And each individual seems to have a unique combination of microbes. Researchers know that certain diseases can be linked to the combinations of bacteria found in the gut.
That means each of us is unique in the way that we digest and metabolize food and how our diet affects our health.
For this study, researchers evaluated the gut bacteria of overweight patients before and after they were enrolled in a diet plan. They learned that while all of the patients lost weight, those with a "lower diversity" of gut bacteria had greater improvements to their overall health than those with more bacterial diversity. The team was also able to study how each individual reacted to the diet.
Specifically, they found that participants with more of the gut microbe Akkermansia muciniphila from the start had better indicators of health after they completed the diet, compared to the people with less of the bacterium. Akkermansia has been associated with better weight and glucose control in animal studies.
The hope is that this new information could help health care providers develop better dietary modifications for patients who need them based on what's going on inside their digestive tract. It could also mean more specially tailored probiotic treatments for patients who would benefit from a change in bacterial composition.
So which kind of diet plan would work best for you: Low fiber? High protein? Vegetarian? Pretty soon, you may just be able to ask your gut.