Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 23, 2021

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Miso soup is a good source of probiotics, which can help reduce obesity.

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Bacteria and the bulge

The settlement of bacteria in the gut plays a role in obesity and the body’s metabolism of nutrients. In a recent study, poor microbial diversity was associated with higher body fat, insulin-resistance, poor blood lipid levels, and inflammatory markers leading to higher risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.1 They may be tiny, but these microscopic organisms can have a giant impact on how you look, feel and live.

Diet and gut colonization

Gut microbiota are influenced by genetics, age, sex and environmental factors, but are also vulnerable to dietary changes. A 2011 study indicated an increase of Firmicutes and a decrease in bacteroidetes in obese mice fed a high-fat Western diet, and the opposite in leaner mice.2 Another study proved that a high-protein, high-fiber, low-calorie diet leading to fat loss created a more “rich” microbiota in individuals.1


Natural probiotics, mainly lactobacilli, are found in many foods that undergo lactic acid fermentation. Certain strains of lactobacilli are linked to either weight gain or weight loss.3 The administration of the probiotic VSL#3 in mice with a high-fat diet reduced food intake, decreased weight gain, and decreased insulin resistance due to a change in gut microbiota. VSL#3 led to a rise in GLP-1 and butyrate, which stimulates metabolic efficiency.4


Studies have demonstrated that the consumption of 16 grams per day of prebiotics (inulin-type fructans) increased satiety and decreased hunger and food consumption. Prebiotics are capable of changing gut microbiota, causing less obesity and related disorders by decreasing gut permeability and lowering plasma polysaccharide levels. This increases GLP-1, GLP-2, PYY and reduces grhelin, causing a decrease in hunger, weight, fat mass, type-2 diabetes, and inflammation.2

Ideal ingredients

Probiotics are available in pill form, but you can also get them from food. Yogurt is the most popular source of probiotics. Other sources include naturally fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, soft cheese, sourdough breads, buttermilk, tempeh and miso soup. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, honey, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, maple syrup and legumes.5

Correlation or cause?

To prove that gut microbiota are a cause of obesity, cecal microbiota were transplanted from lean and obese mice into germ-free mice in a 2010 study. Results showed that the germ-free mice colonized with the microbiota of obese mice obtained more calories from food and increased in fat mass compared to the mice with the lean microbiota. Even though caloric intakes were alike, the obese microbiota caused fat gain and insulin resistance.6

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