The holidays are in full swing and this is the time family gatherings inspire not our finest eating habits. Usually, temptations are reserved for an occasional birthday or anniversary but with the consecutive holidays indulgences of eggnog, cookies, cakes, holiday roasts and alcohol are hardly avoidable.

We are all aware by now the impact on the waistline and maybe the fact that the average American gains roughly 7 pounds over the winter holiday months.

It makes sense right… too many spiked eggnogs equals extra calories and extra fluff in the midsection. That is no secret. Now January is looming and the daunting task of losing the weight ensues. The Peloton bike that has served as a clothes rack gets dusted off, the gym membership is renewed and we begin the arduous task of losing the same ole L-B’s we gain every year. However, it never has occurred to us that our gut bacteria may be playing a less obvious role. We are all probably familiar with gut bacteria and its significant role in our immune system. However an emerging body of research is exploding that suggests a correlation between obesity and gut bacteria exists. 

Gut bacteria profiles actually vary in lean and obese animal models and potentially humans. The colony of bugs in our large intestine called the microbiota is specifically composed of Bacte-roidetes, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Verru- comicrobiai. The majority of this bacteria (90%) are Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes (1). Specifically Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are responsible for breaking down dietary carbohydrates and utilizing them for energy (3).  Animal studies demonstrated depleted Bacteroidetes populations combined with increases of Firmicutes populations were present in obese mice (1). So you may be thinking what does my spiked eggnog have to do with all of this? 

Our holiday indulgences may be impacting this delicate balance. Animal studies suggest high fat animal based foods coupled with sugar actually increases Firmicutes species while beneficial bacteroidetes are depleted reducing energy production from food (2). Another study illustrated how two different diet patterns common during the holiday season impact gut bacteria. “The HFD (High Fat Diet) tended to decrease the diversity of the gut microbiota, whereas the HCD (High Carbohydrate-Sucrose Diet) completely changed the structure of the bacteria related to obesity (1).” This translates to a high fat diet that lacks diversity means less room for prebiotics (think plant foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds etc) which feed and support growth of good bacteria. 

Less good bacteria means less of the good guys to use food for energy production and more to be stored as fat instead. Whereas high sugar may change the structure of bacteria impeding on its ability to use food as energy.

Sugar is also commonly associated with feeding “bad” bacteria of the gut thus displacing good bacteria. 

We can now see how those rich and sugary seasonal foods are not only adding extra calories but disrupting the delicate balance of bacteria that increases our metabolism. Through our ReNew Series we can guide you in how to support gut bacteria through inclusion of beneficial prebiotics/probiotic rich foods and healthy lifestyle.

References

  1. Aoun A, Darwish F, Hamod N. The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity in Adults and the Role of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics for Weight Loss. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2020;25(2):113-123. doi:10.3746/pnf.2020.25.2.113
  2. Davis CD. The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. Nutr Today. 2016;51(4):167-174. doi:10.1097/NT.0000000000000167
  3. Zhang YJ, Li S, Gan RY, Zhou T, Xu DP, Li HB. Impacts of gut bacteria on human health and diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(4):7493-7519. Published 2015 Apr 2. doi:10.3390/ijms16047493