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Gut Bacteria a Key to Health

If you’ve been trying to lose weight and making serious diet cuts in all the right places for weight loss, not just maintenance, but still not making progress, there may be something at play that is effectively blocking your success. According to new research, the problem might not be what’s already there, but what’s missing — specifically the right gut microbiota. Research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that the ratio between two types of gut microbes, Prevotella and Bacteroides, evidenced this premise.

For 26 weeks, 62 individuals with increased waist circumference were randomly assigned to either the typical diet enjoyed by the average Dane, or a low-fat, high-fiber diet that included fruits, vegetables and grains. At the end of the study,1 feces samples revealed that the people on the high-fiber diet with a high Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio (P/B ratio) lost an average of 10.9 pounds of body fat, which was 3.5 more pounds than the others.

As The New York Times noted,2 those on the regular diet with a high Prevotella ratio lost 4 pounds, compared with 5.5 pounds for those with a low Prevotella ratio, which was statistically insignificant. In short, the researchers concluded, “subjects with high P/B-ratio appeared more susceptible to lose body fat on diets high in fiber … than subjects with a low P/B-ratio.”3

The key in weight loss success, as well as the difference, according to lead author, Mads F. Hjorth, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen, is that losing fat, rather than muscle mass, is what delivers a meaningful bottom line. Hjorth admitted that while studying the microbiome — the ecosystem of microorganisms in your gut — has, as yet, brought little in the way of practical results, their newest findings may end up being something they can use as a practical tool to aid in weight loss and overall health.

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