Did you know that there are 10 times more of the microbial cells in the human body than there are human cells? Putting it simply, there are 100 trillions of bacteria in our digestive system. When the gut is in balance, 85% of our gut bacteria are good, versus 15% of bad bacteria. Unfortunately, our nutrition and daily lifestyles mean that the majority of us have guts that are not in balance, and an unhealthy gut balance is related to autoimmune disorders, depression, allergies, inflammations, and even cancer. Additionally, according to a study in the International Review Journal, experimental data in animals, as well as the observational studies in humans, show that the composition of the gut microbiota differs in patients prone to obesity, patients with diabetes, patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases, and patients with other nutritional imbalances such as non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD) than those patients who are healthy.
Obesity Genes and Gut Microbes
The results of the study suggest there is a connection between obesity, as well as other diseases, and modifications of microbial gene expression responsible for inflection of metabolic functions of gut bacteria. In short, people who suffer from a low gut bacterial gut diversity are more prone to disease and poor health, as they exhibit persistent inflammations and can be resistant to dietary interventions. The altered gut bacterial functions found in obesity could potentially explain the reason for the difficulty in achieving success with dietary changes and intervention.
The further conclusions target the microbiome as a potential therapeutic means of treating obesity and other diseases. A healthy gut means a healthy body.
Probiotic Management of Obesity and Diseases
Studies conducted on rodents give an interesting insight on the influence of probiotics on our gut. Most of these studies were based on Lactobacillus, which were proven able to suppress fat-mass gain. In addition, all of the complications typical of obesity were diminished; probiotics reduced tissue inflammation as well as fat accumulation in the liver. Another study confirmed that probiotics can modulate lipid metabolism.
While we can prove the benefits of probiotics, the way that probiotics work still remains a mystery. In most of these studies, a detailed analysis of the gut microbiota after probiotic administration is lacking, so it’s not yet been determined exactly which bacteria are responsible for improved intestine metabolism.
Further research is needed on strain comparison and the ability of probiotics to regulate obesity and related diseases, as well as the beneficial probiotic mechanisms. So far, scientists can only agree that probiotics lead to weight loss and improved gut microbiota, but the whole scope of probiotic workings needs additional study.
The Influence of Probiotic-Type Nutrients
After such successful results, one question remained – is it possible to relate the properties of dietary fibers that particularly target gut microbiota with host functions connected to obesity and overfeeding? While some fermentable carbohydrates (glucans, galactans, and fructans) were defined as prebiotics at the start, because they promote bifidobacteria development, the most important and complex group of bacteria, Bifidobacterium, is often lined with a beneficial health impact on obesity and/or diabetes.
Then again, these are not the only advantages that come with probiotic administration. In fact, during the research on specific bacteria it became clear that Faecalibacterium prausnitzii has anti-inflammatory properties in diabetes-related inflammation, whereas Akkermansia muciniphila correlates with body weight in preschool children and pregnant women.
Dietary supplementation with non-digestible/fermentable carbohydrates changed the gene expression pattern in obese mice and contributed to a reduction in hunger and food consumption in other human studies. And that’s not all; several substrates with probiotic properties like fructans and arabinoxylans are also able to counter affect the processes leading to obesity. Basically, they were able to improve the gut barrier or decrease the activity of proteins in the digestive system that cause inflammatory processes and obesity.
Moreover, it was proven in most of these studies that probiotic administration improves mechanisms of hepatic insulin resistance. To be precise, patients exhibiting hepatic diseases showed improvement via ITF probiotic consumption. But the different ways in which probiotics act is not exclusively defined. Only one of them is definitely certain and that is the modification of metabolites (e.g. SCFAs) produced by the gut bacteria.
The trick is that SCFAs are not the only metabolites in charge of the gut bacteria production. Many are still unknown, because the gut has an enormous metabolic potential. There are one hundredfold more genes than the human genome which makes for a large size of metabolites yet to be researched and compared with probiotic effects. But for the moment, the identified metabolites related to human health are vitamins, polyamines, bile acid metabolites, lipid metabolites, and choline metabolites.
Considering that bile acid metabolites rely heavily on microbial activities and the fact bile acid metabolites profile varies in different tissues such as kidneys, liver, heart, and plasma, they are often modified by gut microbiota modulation. Meaning that probiotic supplementation can be quite beneficial when it comes to these natural human gut processes.
In the end, all of the studies came to the same conclusion. By regularly taking probiotics, various metabolic alterations connected to obesity like hepatic steatosis, hyperglycemia, and inflammations, can be effectively counteracted.
It is amazing how probiotics can promote gut hormone release, change the gut barrier to add an extra layer of protection, reduce overfeeding, obesity, diabetes, and support overall health.