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Microbiome impacts weight loss ability

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Gut microbiota plays a key role in a person’s ability to lose weight, according to new research from the Institute for Systems Biology.

Researchers at the Institute for Systems Biology investigated the functional determinants of how differences in the taxonomic composition of the gut affect the body’s response to weight loss interventions. The findings were published in mSystems, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Your gut microbiome can help or cause resistance to weight loss and this opens up the possibility to try to alter the gut microbiome to impact weight loss,” said lead study author Christian Diener, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.

For the study, researchers enrolled a cohort of 105 individuals selected from a larger population participating in a commercial wellness program; 48 had lost more than 1% of their body weight per month over a six- to 12-month period, while 57 lost no weight and had a stable body mass index (BMI) over the same period. Each individual in the cohort had baseline blood metabolomics, blood proteomics, clinical labs, dietary questionnaires, stool 16S rRNA gene sequencing data, and follow-up data on weight change. In a subset of 25 individuals who showed the most extreme weight change phenotypes, the researchers generated additional targeted proteomics data on obesity-associated proteins in blood before and after intervention, and baseline stool metagenomic data.

After controlling for sex, age and BMI, the research team identified 31 baseline stool metagenomic functional features associated with weight loss responses. These included complex polysaccharide and protein degradation genes, stress-response genes, respiration-related genes, and cell wall synthesis genes, as well as gut bacterial replication rates. The team concluded that the microbiota may influence host weight loss responses through variable bacterial growth rates, dietary energy harvest efficiency and immunomodulation. Therefore, there could be an opportunity to alter the gut microbiome to impact weight loss, or to offer appropriate guidance on diet alterations to individuals whose gut bacteria may confer resistance to weight loss.

“Before this study, we knew the composition of bacteria in the gut were different in obese people than in people who were non-obese, but now we have seen that there are a different set of genes that are encoded in the bacteria in our gut that also responds to weight loss intervention,” Diener said. “The gut microbiome is a major player in modulating whether a weight loss intervention will have success or not. The factors that dictate obesity versus non-obesity are not the same factors that dictate whether you will lose weight on a lifestyle intervention.”

For more on developments and innovations in gut health, we’ve got you covered at SupplySide West. Check out the two-hour workshop, “Microbiome modulation for strategic wellness” on Tuesday, Oct. 26, from 9:00-11:30 am, in the lower level, South Pacific G room.

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