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The Role of Microbes and Flavonoids in Weight Maintenance

yo yo dieting

I’ve talked about the role of the gut microbiota in reducing both inflammation and the risk of developing autoimmune disorders.

Now, new research suggests that the millions of bacterial microbes in your digestive tract also play a key role in weight maintenance after weight loss. Specifically, that the type of microbiota you have affects the level of flavonoids in your intestines, which in turn influences your metabolism.

Have you heard of the “Biggest Loser Effect?”

This phrase isn’t referring to the fame former contestants of NBC’s long-running weight loss competition reality TV show enjoyed. Rather, it describes the tendency for contestants to regain all of the weight they lost, plus more.

Yo-Yo Dieting

This cycle of weight gain, weight loss, and again weight gain – or, “yo-yo dieting” – isn’t limited to TV stars.

Many of my clients come to me demoralized from years of weight cycling.

The reason why weight tends to pile back on has long been the source of speculation.

Behavior is, of course, a key factor in keeping weight off — a slide back into unhealthy eating patterns and into a sedentary lifestyle will allow weight to creep back on.

However, many people who have experienced a weight regain after an initial weight loss note that the pounds seem to pile on much faster and with relatively fewer calories.

What is a Flavonoid?

Flavonoids are natural chemicals.

Powerful antioxidants, they fight inflammation and disease.

Flavonoids are found in nearly all fruits and vegetables.

Choose from all the colors of the produce rainbow daily to maximize your intake.

Biggest Loser Effect

Scientists studying the “Biggest Loser Effect” discovered that the average metabolic rate of the television show’s contestants six years after their initial weight loss was significantly lower than expected for their age and size. The biological reasons for this depressed metabolism remain a subject of debate.

However, researchers studying the effects of yo-yo dieting in mice may have found a piece of the puzzle.

Yes, you guessed it: the gut microbiome.

Israeli scientists found that the gut bacteria of post-dieting mice were significantly different than mice that never dieted. This altered bacteria produced an interesting effect: much lower intestinal flavonoid levels, which in turn contributed to the higher weight gain of post-dieting mice fed the exact same food as never-dieted mice.

Before you despair, the researchers went on to test the effect adding extra flavonoids into the mice’s diet.

And guess what?  When mice consumed more flavonoids, their weight gain normalized, equivalent to that of never-dieted mice.

While these results haven’t been applied in human clinical trials, the underlying principle resonates with what we already know: keeping the gut microbiota healthy is a key aspect of good health, and flavonoid levels matter.

Are you in trying to maintain your weight after a significant loss?

Stock up on flavonoid powerhouses by consuming several servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Learn more about eating healthy, including delicious recipes and nutritional facts, by signing up for the Sweet Life Wellness newsletter.

Author:Penelope Nutrition Intern for Sweet Life Wellness
Nutrition Intern for Sweet Life Wellness