Scientists have been looking at something else, besides calories, that may contribute to obesity and type-2 diabetes. They have taken a big leap forward connecting the tiny culprits that may be sabotaging your weight and health.
There are trillions of microbes, bacteria inhabiting your body.
"We have more microbe cells in our, and on our body, than we have cells in our body," explained Dr. Lauri Byerley, a physiologist and registered dietician at LSU Health Sciences Center.
And they are hungry. In fact, those bacteria are the ones digesting your meals. Many scientists have thought they play a role in obesity, but now there's the best scientific evidence yet from the Cleveland Clinic, suggesting how these tiny guys throughout your gut, influence obesity and type-2 diabetes.
"A western diet is associated with an imbalance of your bacteria in your gut," said Dr. Melinda Sothern, an exercise physiologist at the LSU School of Public Health.
There are good bacteria that promote wellness and a metabolism, that uses food for fuel, and there are bad ones that promote fat storage and inflammation. Years of antibiotics from medicine and foods, and a diet high in sugar, red meat, egg yokes and high fat dairy, are causing the bad bacteria to take over.
"That's what's really important, is that the bacteria will decide whether or not your gut's going to use the food well, so that it's not stored in your truncal area. It's actually used for fuel in the skeletal muscles for energy," explained Dr. Sothern.
In fact, in studies where the bad bacteria from a fat animal was transplanted into a lean one of normal weight, that lean one became fat. So do you take probiotic capsules to get the good bacteria back in balance? Both our LSU Health Sciences Center experts say taking probiotics are ok if you're healthy and have checked with your doctor, but the best way is to do it with food. In fact, Dr. Byerley recently found in animal models that walnuts can help.
"By using diet, and in this case just adding walnuts, that you can then shift your gut bacteria so that you can have more of the beneficial bacteria present," Dr. Byerley said.
There are foods that have probiotics in them, bringing good bacteria to the gut. And then there are foods that are prebiotics, such as the walnuts, that are like fertilizer and nourish the good bacteria already living there. The doctors say fruits and vegetables and diets with fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles, yogurt and cottage cheese, and soft-aged cheese, dark chocolate, beer, and miso are beneficial. They say think Mediterranean diet.
"We need to feed our microbes, but we don't do a very good job," said Dr. Byerley.
The safety of probiotic supplements in pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people with compromised immune systems, is still not fully known.
Check with your doctor before you use them.
Some probiotic foods: