August 21 2017
Seaweed isn't just the annoying stuff that wraps around your legs while you're playing in the waves–it can also be a healthy snack.
The incidence of obesity in the general population in the United States is steadily rising—but fewer and fewer adults are attempting to moderate their weight. It seems as if a significant segment of our population has given up on dieting. Yet, how can we blame people for not persisting in a repeated pattern of failure? Typical diets that only concentrate on portion control or a limited food palette consistently fail and the reason is that these measures don’t address the entire story.
New research has revealed a number of surprises about weight control. The greatest of these has been the realization that on a biological basis, we are not the single creature that we assume. Instead, our bodies are a combination of our own innate cells and a vast number microbial inhabitants. And these microbes are not just passive hangers-on. Our microbes form essential aspects of our gut, respiratory system, and skin and outnumber our own personal cells by a factor of 10 to 1.
Research has revealed that our microbes make a significant contribution to our responses to food and feeling full that directly influence obesity. For example, there are differences between the microbiomes of lean and obese individuals. Overweight adults and children tend to show a decrease in microbial diversity compared to leaner individuals.
Certain foods can influence this crucial gut microbial composition and some supplements, called prebiotics and probiotics, can do likewise.
Prebiotics are typically non-digestible fibers, such as oligofructose or inulin, that beneficial microbes can utilize for their metabolism. Examples of prebiotic foods, which contain these fibers, include:
Probiotics are those foods that directly add some useful strains of bacteria that are elements of a healthy gut microbiome. These include:
Both prebiotic and probiotic foods can guide the gut microbiome towards a pattern that is the most healthful for that individual. Prebiotic and probiotic foods and some supplements have been specifically demonstrated to positively affect weight management.
With information and the vast range of alternatives that are emerging, what is the best thing to do, right now, for general good health and to assist in practical weight management? Adjust your diet, as much as you can to include the best sources of prebiotic and probiotic fiber and consider adding an effective prebiotic or probiotic supplement.
Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. He is the author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome. He currently serves as a scientific advisor to Prebiotin. For more information, visit themicrocosmwithin.com.