Your brain, nerves, weight and even your body’s reaction to specific foods are all governed by gut microbes (a.k.a. bacteria), some which are good for health and others, bad. And while this teeming community of microbes fills your gut at birth, there are plenty of opportunities to adjust the balance, as you can physically change your microbe makeup through diet, exercise and even sleep. Let’s look at some of the latest research illuminating the signifiance of our body’s friendly bacteria.
Walking in the cold burns fat (thanks to microbes)
Scientists have long known that when we’re out in the cold air, our metabolism revvs up, resulting in calorie burn. In the journal Cell, a new report pinpoints gut microbes as the trigger for this effect. If your goal is weight loss, looks like a brisk walk or cross-country skiing on a cold day will help burn fat.
Exercise helps brain development in children (via gut microbes)
Researchers reported in Immunology and Cell Biology that exercise in early life can positively affect the microbial community, promoting healthier brain and metabolic activity. While they have not pinpointed the exact “window of opportunity” when exercise is most beneficial for children, the earlier the better, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology.
Why your friend’s diet won’t help you (yes, microbes at work)
Gut microbes might even affect the weight-loss diet that works for you, according to a study in Cell. Dietitians have always believed that glycemic index (GI) determined how much a certain food will raise your blood sugar, which triggers release of the "fat storing" hormone insulin (voila, weight gain!). Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel tested this theory by tracking the blood sugar on 800 subjects. The study revealed that everyone had a dramatically different blood sugar reaction to the exact same foods, even foods considered healthy, like tomatoes. Researchers believe gut bacteria may cause this very specific response to foods, as there is growing evidence that microbes play a big role in diabetes and obesity.
Until this connection between health and microbes is sorted out, avoid processed foods, which deplete the gut of the “good” gut microbes that nurture the whole body and facilitate weight loss. Eat plenty of high-fiber foods like split peas, lentils, black beans, artichokes and raspberries, which are known to boost production of “good” gut bacteria. That’s not too hard, is it?
- Science Daily: Early-life exercise alters gut microbes, promotes healthy brain and metabolism
- Immunology and Cell Biology: Early life exercise may promote lasting brain and metabolic health through gut bacterial metabolites
- Science Daily: Gut microbes trigger fat loss in response to cold temperatures
- Prevention: Why You And Your Friend Can Eat The Same Exact Foods And She'll Lose Weight But You Won't