Is Gut Bacteria More Important than Calories When it Comes to Body Weight?

Sunday, July 03, 2011  -  Byron J Richards, CCN

A new Harvard study published in the New England Journal of Medicine is helping to clarify which foods contribute to weight gain – with some surprising results. The study includes 120,000 men and women from three large cohorts followed for 12-20 years. The study shows that inactivity is not a good thing and then sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 8 is also trouble.  But the news-generating headlines have come from the foods that either did or didn’t cause weight gain.  Regular consumption of yogurt turned out to the most helpful of all foods – not because of calories but because of friendly flora in the yogurt.

Some of the findings came as no surprise. French fries and potato chips were the worst. If you eat them on a regular basis over a number of years you are destined to become quite fat. Somewhat surprisingly, potatoes in general were the next worse.  You fared better if you boiled, baked, or mashed your potatoes.  Even though they are a good source of potassium and their skins have b vitamins, this study says their weight-gain risks outweigh their benefits (likely due to their stress to insulin and blood sugar via their high glycemic index). 

Next worse are the sugar-sweetened beverages. This market is now dominated by high fructose corn syrup, which is clearly problematic to metabolism.

Next in line was unprocessed red meat and processed meat.  While I would include range-raised unprocessed red meat in a healthy diet due to its omega 3 content, this study was not able to determine quality of food consumed.  Red meat from factory farms and processed meat contain toxins in their fat. Such toxins are sure to promote weight gain. Many people eat this type of food in combination with chips and fries, making the shear number of excess calories problematic.

Trans fats, sweets, desserts, fried food, and refined grains round out the types of foods that are the worst for regular consumption.

One interesting finding was that dairy products, including cheese and high-fat dairy, were not associated with weight gain.  In fact, the difference between no-fat or low-fat dairy and higher-fat dairy was negligible even though the calories are different. 

On the positive side increasing amounts of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits were associated with lower body weight.

Quite interestingly, regular nut intake was actually associated with higher weight loss than fruits, veggies and whole grains. This doesn’t mean eat a whole bag of them.  It just means they are a nutritious food that is more helpful than harmful to metabolism when eaten as part of your overall appropriate number of daily calories.

The really big surprise was the yogurt – clearly indicating the importance of friendly flora to help your metabolism function better. I have written extensively on this subject in recent weeks:  How Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Promotes Digestive Healing, How Digestive Problems Prevent Weight Loss, and Germ Gangs Block Weight Loss.  Confirmation of the importance of friendly flora by such a large number of people over so many years is a dramatic finding.

Public health dogma has for many years lived and died by the faulty notion that all calories are the same. This led to the ridiculous food pyramid that is now followed by Mrs. Obama’s even more juvenile plate. Our government’s efforts to help citizens lose weight have been misguided – as they now embark upon another version of telling everyone what they already know.  Our government’s incompetence in helping to guide industry to produce a higher-quality food supply is a main reason we have an obesity epidemic today. The makers of junk food know exactly how easy it is to get Americans addicted to their flavoring systems – lining up at their fast-food windows or eating their branded foods like one of Pavlov’s dogs. The real scandal is in the depth to which our regulatory agencies have actually contributed to the mass marketing of food garbage. All calories are not the same, nor is your ability to metabolize them, especially as you become overweight.

Posted by Byron J Richards at 01:56 PM.

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