Predicting weight loss: Study suggests gut bacteria may influence ability to shed pounds

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From left: study authors Sushmita Patwardhan, Sean Gibbons and Christian Diener. (ISB photo)

A study led by the Seattle Institute for Systems Biology suggests that the composition of bacteria in the gut can affect a person’s ability to lose weight.

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The results are “rather preliminary”, according to the report. published today In the journal mSystems. But the findings, screening gut bacteria in people before starting a wellness program, could lead to new ways to predict weight loss.

“If I knew what your microbiome looked like, I could tell you if you would be more likely to respond to a moderate lifestyle intervention,” lead author Sean Gibbons, assistant professor at ISB, told GeekWire in an interview. The findings could potentially lead to ways to enhance weight loss by manipulating the gut microbiome, the collection of bacteria in the gut.


The study examined the gut microbiomes of people who participated in a wellness program in 2019 as part of ISB spinout health company Arivale. Participants sent a stool sample to the company as part of a whole-body workout that included blood metabolites and other measures.

The researchers examined the microbes of 25 of the participants in deep molecular detail, matching the types of bacterial genes present in the samples through DNA sequencing. Fifteen of these people had lost weight on Arrival’s wellness program, and the rest maintained a steady weight.

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The researchers found that people who lost weight had a different gut structure to begin with. Their microbiome was rich in bacterial genes that divert dietary nutrients to microbes and drive their growth. Bacteria also have a rapid growth rate, which also includes a bacterial group called prevotella.

The microbiomes of people who did not lose weight were enriched for bacterial genes that convert fiber into absorbable sugars. Their bacterial growth rate was also slow.

Findings suggest that those who lost weight had a microbiome full of fast-growing, energy-using bacteria that helped them lose weight even before they started their wellness program. Their gut bacteria are more likely to overwhelm the body for energy-rich nutrients, which reduces the amount of calories the body consumes.

If the findings persist in larger studies, they could lead to new ways to predict weight loss by measuring the microbiome.

The findings also fit with previous studies suggesting that prevotella Bacteria are linked to weight loss. And they are part of an emerging scientific picture that the gut microbiome has a major role in health and influences weight.

As new studies emerge, scientists may develop targeted methods to shift the structure of the gut into a state ready for weight loss, using specific probiotics or other means.

“There may be some area there to engineer the microbiome toward the responder state for weight loss,” Gibbons said. “But that’s more in the future.”

They noted that their study stood out because it showed that the microbiome composition associated with weight loss is independent of starting BMI, a measure of body mass index, obesity and overweight. People who have a higher BMI tend to lose weight more rapidly at first, and may have different compositions in their microbiome, which may influence the findings of microbiome studies.

The new data also showed that gut composition was more strongly related to weight loss than other body measurements, including baseline diet and blood metabolites.

One of the contributing authors, Nathan Price, is now the CEO forest life, in addition to being an ISB professor, is one of several lifestyle companies that analyzes the microbiome.

Asked if OneGevity will use the data for any of its products, Gibbons said, “I can’t say for sure, I know they’re interested in such things. And so something like that could happen.” “

Other institutions involved in the study are the Lifestyle Medicine Institute in Redlands, Calif., the University of Washington’s Department of Bioengineering, and christian institute, which focuses on data science.

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