By now, you probably know that not all bacteria is created equal. Though we try to stave off the microbes that make us sick (or break out), health experts also tell us to fill up on the good kind: the probiotics found in yogurt and fermented foods, for example. But while it seems like it's as simple as eating the good and avoiding the bad, science suggests that it's a little more complicated than that—in fact, you should be thinking of your gut as its own delicate ecosystem of bacteria strains. And a new study emphasizes that an imbalance of that microscopic environment could have way more of an impact on your weight-loss efforts than you might have bargained for.
Researchers at the Chalmers Institute of Technology in Sweden set out to discover how the human metabolism responds to different changes in the bacteria microbiome that exists in our digestive systems. First, the scientists identified the 45 test subjects as either high diversity or low diversity—that is, housing a wider vs. smaller variety of bacteria strains in their gut—before putting the entire group on a low-calorie, high-fiber diet. Though both groups lost the same amount of weight, the key difference was that those with a low bacteria diversity saw major improvements in their blood plasma chemistry, which is vital in diagnosing and determining treatment response for diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more. "I interpreted this as meaning that if you have a high level of bacteria, it means you can better cope with being overweight and your diverse microbiome levels assist you in metabolizing a high-energy or carbohydrate diet," says lead researcher Jens Nielsen.
It's a tad confusing, but this is the grand takeaway: Those who have low bacteria diversity will have the most dieting success with a low-carb, high-protein diet, while those with plenty of gut fauna won't see their metabolism take as much of a hit from a carbohydrate-rich regimen. And the significance doesn't stop there: Nielsen notes that by proving just how much of an impact individual gut bacteria has on weight loss, characterizing our "gut microbiome" could be the next big thing in dieting.
Have you seen an impact by consuming more probiotics? Tell us in the comments below!