While Grace was an intern with the American Heart Association, she collected data and created a Community Needs Assessment for her area. The Community needs assessment helped the American Heart Association write a grant proposal for race equity funding for low income low food access households. Grace was recently notified by her AHA preceptor that the grant proposal was accepted and they received $15,000 for underserved clinics to get BP and nutrition info in the hands that need it! Grace’s hard work as an intern helped make this happen and we are so proud of her!
Here is what Grace had to say about her amazing accomplisment:
“I am overwhelmed with joy, and super excited to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
It is commonly understood that obesity and mental health are correlated to each other. In fact, it is almost hard to acknowledge one of these topics without eventually addressing the other. We know that there is some sort of connection, the question that remains is: what is it?
In order to set the stage for the rest of this post, consider these two questions:
• Can obesity lead to developing a mental disorder?
• Can a mental illness increase a person’s risk for developing obesity?
Let’s start at the beginning:
It is no secret that obesity is increasing not only within the United States, but worldwide as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data from a National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey found that in the United States between the years of 2017- 2018, the prevalence of obesity in adults was 42.4% which is more than a third of the population (1).
CDC: Estimates for adults aged 20 and over were age adjusted by the direct method to the 2000 U.S. Census population using the age groups 20–39, 40–59, and 60 and over (1).
This is a public health concern because:
1. Obesity raises the risk for most chronic conditions
2. Obesity can lead to poor mental health
3. Obesity can increase your risk for mortality (2).
What is obesity?
Obesity is a complex, multifactorial disease that is typically defined as excess body weight for height. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most widely used criteria for determining obesity and is classified by a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater (2).
In addition, not only is obesity rapidly increasing, but mental health illnesses as well. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness which is roughly 51.5 million people. A mental illness is a health condition that results in changes to an individual’s emotions, thinking, or behavior and they are often associated with distress and result in an individual having difficulty functioning normally in social, work, or family situations (3).
Common mental illnesses include:
• Bipolar disorder
• Eating disorders
• Personality disorders
• Psychotic disorders
• PTSD disorders.
Nearly one in five U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness.
Individuals who are obese have an increased risk of developing some sort of neuropsychiatric disorder such as depression and anxiety and individuals that have neuropsychiatric conditions may exhibit features that can lead to the development of obesity (4).
Let’s dig in and look into those questions from the beginning a little further:
Can obesity lead to developing a mental disorder? Short answer: Possibly
Individuals who are obese have a higher chance of developing some sort of neuropsychiatric disorder such as depression and anxiety than non-obese people. Unfortunately, because of high social expectations, beauty standards, and media, an individual with obesity can negatively influence a person’s self-image with a self depreciating perception. Ultimately, this can make an individual vulnerable lead to depressive symptoms.
• A systematic review in 2017 was conducted which indicated that depressed adolescents had a 70% higher risk for being obese and another study showed that older women with obesity had a 38% increased risk for developing depression (5).
• In 2019, a study was conducted to understand obesity in college aged women. This study found that:
o Obese women had significantly lower body image, self-esteem, and high depressive symptoms than non-obese women.
o The obese women who reported depressive symptoms reporting more eating problems, and poorer body image (6).
• A meta-analysis conducted in 2018 ultimately showed that individuals with central obesity had a 38% increase of having depression than non-obese individuals (7).
Within society, it has been established that there are many negative weight-related issues prevalent in society today including (6):
Because of this, individuals might look for ways to restrict their diets in an effort to lose weight. Ultimately, that behavior has the potential to exacerbate depression and put obese individuals at an increased risk for developing a mood disorder (7).
Can a mental illness increase a person’s risk for developing obesity? Short answer: Possibly
For the most part, it is common knowledge that obesity can increase an individual’s chance of developing mental health disorders and maybe it is common knowledge because we are all aware of the weight bias, discrimination, and stigmatization that exists in society as a whole, within the media, but is also apparent on a normal basis in our day to day lives (4). How often do we think about how mental illness can increase a person’s risk for developing obesity?
• Depressive symptoms can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle including being sedentary and poor eating habits.
o In college students, it was found that depressive symptoms lead to the consumptions of sweets, cookies, snacks, and fast food.
• Food preferences may change during states of stress of depression.
• High carbohydrate food can temporarily life a person’s mood.
o Leads to the consumption of pleasant tasting foods (usually those that are high in fat and sugar) which activate the brains opioid system.
o Carbohydrate consumption may increase serotonin production in the brain. • Mood disorders can cause sleep abnormalities and sleep impairment is associated with an increase in the hormone ghrelin (hunger hormone) and decreases the hormone leptin (inhibits hunger).
• A high fat diet that can come from having depressive symptoms can potentially lead to hypothalamic inflammation in the brain which ultimately compromises the regulation of satiety and can promote weight gain.
• Antidepressants and mood stabilizers that are prescribed in the treatment of mental health disorders have been found to be associated with weight gain (4).
Within the past couple of decades, studies are being conducted and evidence is being accumulated that shows that there is an association between mental health disorders and obesity. However, more specific studies are needed as there still a lot of unknowns and unanswered questions. However, the evidence and literature that is currently available is significant and may be impactful by leading efforts towards further research and to the development of better therapeutic strategies for these conditions.
5. Rajan TM, Menon V. Psychiatric disorders and obesity: A review of association studies. J Postgrad Med. 2017;63(3): 182-190.
6. Sarigiani PA, Olsavsky AL, Camarena PM, Sullivan SM. Obesity and depressive symptoms in college women: analysis of body image experiences and comparison to non-obese women. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth. 2019;25(1): 765-779. 7. Mulugeta A, Zhou A, Power C, Hypponen E. Obesity and depressive symptoms in mid-life: a population-based cohort study. BMC Psychiatry. 2018;18: 1-10.
Are you contributing to the childhood obesity rate by allowing your children to drink sugar sweetened beverages? Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB): are considered to be liquids that are sweetened with various forms of sugars. A few Examples are sodas, fruit juices, sport drinks, and energy drinks. Sugar sweetened beverages represent the largest source of added sugars and the main contributor to calories in children’s diets.1
Sugar-sweetened beverages provide little to no nutritional benefits. Studies show intake of sugar sweetened beverages in infants and childhood years are associated with increased risks for health concerns: dental caries, weight gain, enlarged waist circumference, Type 2 Diabetes, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Sugar sweetened beverage consumption is also linked to early puberty in children. Sugar and caffeine in sodas can contribute to poor sleep patterns and weight gain. There is also a link between sugar sweetened beverages and hyperactivity/inattention symptoms in children.1,2,3
What has The World Health Organization Discovered:
The World Health Organization (WHO) has discovered that over 42 million kids under the age of 5 years of age are either overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents aged 5-19 years is now 18% globally. 1
Guidelines for Sugar Intake:
The World Health Organization recently announced a guideline for both children and adults that sugar intake both added and natural should be less than 10% of their total energy. The American Heart Association recommends that children 2 years and older consume no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week. Any child under 2 years of age should not have added sugar in their diets. The lower the amount of sugar sweetened beverages consumed by children the lower the risk of childhood obesity there is. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children ages 1-3 should have no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day, 4-6 no more than 4-6 ounces a day, and children ages 7-18 should have no more than 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day. Whole fruit should be the first choice since it has fiber and less calories compared to fruit juices that have no additional nutritional value compared to whole fruit.1,4,5,6
Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption:
Sugar sweetened beverage intake is not a problem just here in the United States, but across the globe. Sugar sweetened beverages consumption has increased dramatically since 1988 with it contributing to 10-15% of total calories to the diets of children. Mexico has one of the highest consumptions of sugar sweetened beverages contributing 20-23% of their total energy intake. Between 1999-2006 Mexican children have increased their consumption of sugar sweetened beverages by 226%. Sugar sweetened beverages also contribute to over 20% of the United Kingdom children’s added sugar intake. At the current rates of consumption each child in the US ingests on average a total of 55,000kcals per year just from sugar sweetened beverages. Approximately 15% of Australian adolescents’ energy intake comes from added sugars. The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study reported that 10.7% of infants 9-12 months and 14.3% of 12-15-month old’s consumed sugar sweetened beverages a day. 1,2,3,5
Is 100% Fruit Juice a Gateway:
Even 100% fruit juice consumption needs to be limited. Some researchers consider that fruit juice can become a gateway to children consuming sugar sweetened beverages. Increased consumption of fruit juice can decrease milk consumption in children. It can also be linked to weight gain in children. It has similarities to sugar sweetened beverages such as simple sugars being the main calorie source in juice. A study by NHANES, showed concern that when preschool aged children consumed at least 12 ounces of 100% fruit juice were more likely to become overweight compared to those who drank less than 12 ounces a day.
Tips to reduce added sugar intake:
Give children water instead of juices
Give whole fruit over fruit juices
Read nutrition labels
Avoid sodas & other beverages with added sugars
In nutrition there is no single food source that is to blame on the obesity epidemic across the globe, but sugar sweetened beverages does represent the world’s largest source of added sugar in the diets of both children and adults.
Cantoral A, Téllez-Rojo MM, Ettinger AS, Hu H, Hernández-Ávila M, Peterson K. Early introduction and cumulative consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during the pre-school period and risk of obesity at 8-14 years of age. Pediatric Obesity. 2015;11(1):68-74. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12023
Bleakley A, Jordan A, Mallya G, Hennessy M, Piotrowski JT. Do You Know What Your Kids Are Drinking? Evaluation of a Media Campaign to Reduce Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2017;32(6):1409-1416. doi:10.1177/0890117117721320
Scharf RJ, Deboer MD. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Childrens Health. Annual Review of Public Health. 2016;37(1):273-293. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032315-021528.
Hardy LL, Bell J, Bauman A, Mihrshahi S. Association between adolescents’ consumption of total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2017;42(1):22-26. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12749. .
Macintyre AK, Marryat L, Chambers S. Exposure to liquid sweetness in early childhood: artificially‐sweetened and sugar‐sweetened beverage consumption at 4–5 years and risk of overweight and obesity at 7–8 years. Pediatric Obesity. 2018;13(12):755-765. doi:10.1111/ijpo.12284
Weight loss is a huge trend in today’s society. Many popular diets continue to be created to help people achieve this goal. “Trendy” diets can be harmful for those who don’t have all the information before they start. Diets that claim to aid in weight loss can long-term side effects on those participating. This blog focuses on a few of those trending diets, gives a little background information, and provides pros and cons for each of them. Before starting any new diet, people should speak with their Registered Dietitian or Doctor to make sure that diet is safe for them and won’t cause any harm, especially if the person has a condition such as diabetes or heart disease.
The ketogenic diet or “keto” diet is high in fat, low in carb and moderate in protein. This diet has been said, by some, to produce benefits such as help managing diabetes, improving epilepsy and Alzheimer’s, and aid in weight loss. The diet works by severely restricting carbohydrate (carb) intake, which is the main source of energy for the body. When carb intake is restricted it forces the body to use fat as an energy source. When fat is broken down it makes ketones, this is why the diet is called the “ketogenic” or “keto” diet.
Some short-term side effects could include flu-like symptoms, trouble sleeping, and constipation. Those participating in this diet should be aware of long-term effects including kidney stones, liver disease, and nutrient deficiencies. Studies have also shown that the high fat (specifically saturated fats) nature of this diet could increase the risk for heart disease and other heart problems.
For more than a hundred years, the keto diet has been used to help manage Epilepsy, a seizure disorder. Currently, the long-term effects are being researched as well as how it affects those with diabetes or obesity1. For example, there could be a higher chance of hypoglycemia in those on an insulin regimen2. In obese patients, a high protein and high fat diet could raise LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) causing heart problems.
The carnivore diet consists of only meat and animal products and excludes all other foods. It has been said to help with weight loss, mood problems, blood sugar problems, and others. However, there is not enough research to support these benefits. There is also little research done on the long-term complications that could occur with this diet.
Because this diet excludes fruits, grains, and vegetables, nutrient deficiencies are likely to occur. Negative effects of this diet could include heart problems and a higher risk for heart disease because of the increased saturated fat and cholesterol.
Constipation could be caused by this diet due to its excluding of foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and grains3.
Whole30 is a 30-day diet plan designed to promote “clean-eating” by cutting out certain food groups. The food groups that are eliminated include: sugar, artificial sweetener, alcohol, grains, beans or legumes, soy, dairy, and processed foods. This leaves meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruit, and fats.
The diet’s claims include weight loss, improvement in health conditions such as headaches, digestive problems, clear skin, and energy levels among others. The creator of Whole30 says she chose 30 days because “thirty days is a good compromise. It takes 66 days for a habit to stick, but if we told someone to do this plan for that long, it’d be pretty intimidating”- Hartwig.
A few benefits of this diet are that participants don’t have to count calories, they shouldn’t feel as hungry as they normally would, and there isn’t a point system for participants to follow. Some negative notes of this diet are that it is a very restricted diet, it can be hard to follow in a social setting, and also participants will be required to do meal preparation which can be time consuming4.
A paleo diet is based on the eating style of people during the paleolithic era. This era took place between 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The paleo diet includes foods that can be hunted or gathered such as: lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds. Dairy, legumes, and refined grains, therefore, are eliminated because they weren’t consumed during this time period. However, because of this stipulation, the diet can be restrictive making the diet difficult to follow.
The goal of this diet is to get humans to eat in a way that is closer to what their paleolithic ancestors ate. The reason for this diet is that it is believed that genetically, the human body does not work well with modern diets. This theory is called the discordance hypothesis. This hypothesis states that updates in farming changed people’s diets which caused the body to fall behind in adapting to these new dietary changes. This lack of adapting is believed to contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in today’s people5. This diet can potentially lead to weight loss, and improved health conditions. Some downfalls to this diet are that it is restrictive and that more research needs to be done to reveal any long-term side effects.
Although these diets all have their pros and cons, no one diet is perfect for everyone. Weight loss should be based on an individual level and ideally be done in the healthiest way possible. This may include involving health care workers such as Registered Dietitians, and Doctors, among others. However, if someone would want to try a new diet without consulting a medical professional, ample research should be done on the diet to avoid any negative results. It is crucial that participants find reputable sources when learning about a new diet to avoid finding false information. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website is a great resource to find articles written by nutrition professionals. It is important to avoid any diets or products that state they cause quick weight loss because quick weight loss can be due to muscle, bone, or water loss and not fat which is what most people want to lose. Other diet/product claims to be avoided are restrictive diets and strict meals. Restrictive diets are difficult to follow and hard to make a long-term way of eating. Strict meals can become repetitive and boring which makes participants lose interest. It is also not realistic for people to consume the same meals on a daily basis6. Popular diets can be very intriguing for those who are trying to lose weight; however, participants should be mindful that they are not always the safest or healthiest option for everyone.
I just finished my community rotation at a grocery store chain that employs dietitians. While I was there, I helped promote healthful grocery items and sat in on phone calls and virtual consultations with clients. Currently, I am in my medical nutrition therapy rotation at a hospital nearby. I have been working closely with a dietitian learning to interview and educate different patients on their prescribed diets. It has been quite the learning experience!
“Something Extra” about Taylor, Future RD:
I get to have the chance to help people change their perception with food into a positive relationship rather than something negative. I want to incorporate my love for cooking and working with flavorful and nutritiously dense meals of which will help pave the path into improving the overall health and wellbeing of others.
Adolescence is one of life’s most challenging transitions. This stage of life is filled with new emotions, changes, relationships, and unforgettable lessons. As if these struggles were not challenging enough, dealing with obesity and type 2 diabetes can add to the stress. A diagnosis of this magnitude can be overwhelming and scary all at once. Despite this rollercoaster ride of emotions, the most important thing to keep in mind is that individuals still have some control over their health. Understanding obesity and type 2 diabetes is a step in the right direction.
The Link Between Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
Numerous journals, such as the Diabetes Care journal, demonstrate that obesity and excess weight are significant contributors to developing insulin resistance.  Obesity also plays a role in cognitive and social problems in adolescents. These problems can often lead to discrimination, low self-esteem, depression, dissatisfaction with body image, and many other psychosocial issues.  Despite these consequences, obesity statistics continue to rise in this age group. Data shows that 5% of US adolescents were obese in the year 1980.  By the year 2012, 21% of US adolescents were obese.  These numbers have more than tripled in the past three decades!
Genetics, race, and family history play a significant role in developing type 2 diabetes. However, environmental factors such as obesity most often trigger the onset of this preventable disease. The American Diabetes Association states that “the earlier an individual develops type 2 diabetes, the higher their lifetime risk of diabetes complications such as heart disease, vascular disease, vision loss, and amputation will be.” 
What Goes on Inside the Body with Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body regulates blood glucose (sugar).  After eating a meal, the body turns the food into glucose, which travels in the blood system until insulin is released. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, works like a key and allows glucose to enter the cells to be used as energy.  However, with type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or becomes resistant. When this happens, blood glucose can become too high.
Making lifestyle modifications is a very personal decision, and it may not be the easiest thing to do. It is recommended that adolescents with obesity and type 2 diabetes aim to achieve a 7-10% decrease in excess weight.  However, family members must help with this process by engaging all members in making new lifestyle changes.  It can also be helpful to speak to a physician before making these changes. Working with a registered dietitian can help clear up any misconceptions about nutrition and help make individualized meal plans that will properly nourish the body.
Get Daily Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain. Therefore, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that youth ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.  Incorporating a mixture of aerobics, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening exercises are recommended. In addition to weight improvements, regular physical activity decreases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, type 2 diabetes, and much more. 
Community centers often offer exciting and inexpensive exercise classes, such as dance and yoga, to the community. These classes can be a great way to get involved, meet new people, and a creative way to get moving!
Use the Diabetes Plate Method
Large food portions often lead to excessive consumption of calories. With time this may lead to a significant increase in weight. The Diabetes Plate Method is a great guide to help individuals choose healthy foods and be mindful about portion sizes.  This guide works well for many because it eliminates the need to count, calculate, or measure food.  According to the American Diabetes Association, this method starts with using a reasonably sized plate—a plate that is 9 inches across works perfectly. 
First, fill half the plate with nonstarchy vegetables such as:
Second, fill one-quarter of the plate with lean protein foods such as:
Any plant-based meat substitutes
Finally, fill one-quarter of the plate with a carbohydrate food choice such as:
Grains (brown rice, quinoa)
Starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn)
Carbohydrate food choices are limited to one-quarter because they have the most significant impact on blood glucose levels. For beverages, choose those that do not contain calories or added sugars, such as water, unsweetened tea, or any other calorie-free beverage.
The Importance of Diabetes Self-Management Education
Youth diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of accelerated diabetes-related complications. Type 2 diabetes diagnosed at a younger age is also associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.  Therefore, diabetes self-management education is vital to successfully teach adolescents how to control and measure blood sugar levels, reduce mortality risks, and learn more about lifestyle modifications.  It is important to understand that diabetes self-management education will require periodic reassessment, especially as an adolescent grows, develops, and has a greater need for independent self-care skills. 
The Positive Effects of Weight Loss in Adolescents
Studies show that lifestyle interventions, such as physical activity, improves insulin sensitivity independently from weight loss. [8, 9]Dietary patterns also contribute to overall health. For example, it is known that weight loss is promoted when dietary patterns are rich in whole grains and fiber.  Many of these high fiber foods come from fruits and vegetables. In some instances, pharmacologic interventions may be necessary for some individuals. Therefore, it is crucial to speak with a physician and a registered dietitian about these options. In essence, whether adolescents are newly diagnosed or have been living with type 2 diabetes for a while, they have control to redirect their lives and make the most out of those years of youth!
1. Arslanian S, Bacha F, Grey M, Marcus M, White N, Zeitler P. Evaluation and Management of Youth-Onset Type 2 Diabetes: A Position Statement by the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(12):2648-2668. doi:10.2337/dci18-0052
2. Mazloomy-Mahmoodabad SS, Navabi ZS, Ahmadi A, Askarishahi M. The effect of educational intervention on weight loss in adolescents with overweight and obesity: Application of the theory of planned behavior. ARYA Atheroscler. 2017;13(4):176-183.
3. Rao PV. Type 2 diabetes in children: Clinical aspects and risk factors. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2015;19(Suppl 1):S47-S50. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.155401
4. Galuska D, Gunn J, O’Connor A, Petersen R. Addressing Childhood Obesity for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention: Challenges and Opportunities. 2018;31(4):330-334. doi: https://doi.org/10.2337/ds18-0017
I am currently interning at Hy-Vee, which is a Midwest grocery store. I previously worked at Hy-Vee for four years as an assistant manager. My preceptors are dietitians that work for corporate. Some of the big projects I will be working on include hosting cooking classes via Zoom, 3 seminars for Drake University via Zoom, and writing up to 10 articles for the Hy-Vee magazine Seasons. I have also been tasked with setting up a way to be able to go virtual with the elderly population. Hy-Vee is working towards staying as virtual as possible from here on out, but this poses an issue with the older population. It is my task to find a way to make it easier for them to be able to access the Hy-Vee dietitians for their one-on-one sessions. This rotation is unique as I will not be working 40-hour weeks for a month, but rather working with them from January until May on whatever projects they deem fit for me to work on. I am loving my time at Hy-Vee and cannot wait to see what else I get to accomplish!
Ahhh… the holidays festivities have finally ceased. Family gatherings may have not inspired the finest eating moments. Usually, temptations are reserved for an occasional birthday or anniversary but with the consecutive holidays indulgences of eggnog, cookies, cakes, holiday roasts and alcohol are hardly avoidable. We are all aware by now of the guilt felt eating one too many of grandma’s cookies and of course the impact on the waistline. It makes sense right…too many cookies equals extra calories and extra fluff in the midsection. That is no secret. Now that January is here the daunting task of shedding that “winter coat” ensues. The Peloton bike that has served as a clothes rack gets dusted off, the gym membership is renewed and we begin the arduous task of losing the same ole L-B’s we gain every year. However it never has occurred to us that our gut bacteria may be playing a less obvious role. We are all probably familiar with gut bacteria and its significant role in our immune system. However an emerging body of research is exploding that suggests a correlation between obesity and gut microbes exists.
ROLES OF BACTERIA IN THE GUT
Understanding the roles in the community of bacteria lining our gastrointestinal tract also known as the microbiota may aid in understanding the mechanisms responsible in weight gain. The microbiota is the ecosystem of bacteria that pertains to the gastrointestinal tract.
Specifically, the five species of bugs that occupy the gut are called Bacte-roidetes, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Verru-comicrobiai. Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are the most dominate and contribute to the majority of microbiota. Collectively only 10% of the remaining microbes contributes to the overall microbiota population(7).
These bacteria are vital for good health as they produce B vitamins and vitamin K(3) while assisting in nutrient absorption and storage(4). These microbes also aid in degrading fiber for energy, which simultaneously fuels growth of beneficial bacteria to prevent overgrowth of pathogeneic bacteria. The most well known role of bacteria in the gut is support of a healthy immune system (3).
THE GUT OBESITY CONNECTION
The connection between gut bacteria and obesity is not completely understood. However several animal studies are providing clues. The gut bacteria profiles actually vary in lean and obese animal models and potentially human. Therefore the type of bacteria matters! Specifically within the microbiota, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes are responsible for breaking down dietary carbohydrates and utilizing them for energy(10).Therefore when there is a disruption in this delicate balance of gut bugs, a condition called dysbiosis, energy production is inhibited leading to weight gain. Other animal studies have revealed depleted Bacteroidetes populations combined with increases of Firmicutes populations were present in obese mice compared to mice of a healthy weight(4). So what does a spiked eggnog over the holidays have to do with all of this? Those indulgences may have also contributed to dysbiosis or a change in your bacteria profile. Animal studies suggest high fat animal based foods coupled with sugar actually increases Firmicutes species while beneficial bacteroidetes are depleted reducing energy production from food (2).
An additional study of obese mice demonstrated how two different diet patterns (High Fat and High Carbohydrate) common during the holiday season impact gut bacteria. A HFD (High Fat Diet) decreased gut diversity, which lead to dysbiosis. A high fat diet will
naturally lack adequate fiber (also known as prebiotics) a fuel source for beneficial bacteria including Bacteroidetes. Bacteroidetes have a positive association with adiposity(5). This infers a reduction in good bacteria translates to decreased utilization of food for energy production and subsequently an increased likelihood of energy stored as fat.
The HCD (High Carbohydrate-Sucrose Diet) was more problematic than the HFD since it promoted the growth of obesogenic related bacteria Acinetobacter,Blautia, and Dorea(7).
These are all animal studies and this data may not be extrapolated to humans. However a compelling human trial also linked lack of gut diversity and chronic weight gain which was sustained over 10 years (10).
What we can extract from this emerging data is a prebiotic rich diet is necessary to support growth of beneficial Bacteroides that are associated with lower body fat percentage. Also when Bacteroides are flourishing it does not allow for fat promoting bacteria to survive through displacement. Furthermore prebiotics or resistant starches provide an acidic environment in the gut created through fermentation. Beneficial gut bacteria actually feeds on prebiotics and this may inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and dysbiosis (9).
COMMON PREBIOTIC FOODS
In conjunction with prebiotics, a well balanced diet represented by a model such as MyPlate is essential in promoting gut diversity (11).
It may not be a coincidence that high fat, high sugar holiday food that is representative of the Standard American diet is contributing to weight gain, especially post holiday weight gain. It potentially may be an insight into one of the several mechanisms contributing to the nations and worlds for that matter obesity rates. While this research is still in its infancy it serves as one more reason Americans need to ditch SAD (Standard American Diet) and adopt GLAD (Gut Loving American Diet) to potentially thwart weight gain. So yes, dry January is in full effect and do not let that gym membership expire just yet. However, please do focus on including more fiber rich plant sources and do not settle for SAD, get a GLAD.
1.Aoun A, Darwish F, Hamod N. The influence of the gut microbiome on obesity in adults and the role of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics for weight loss. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2020;25(2):113-123
2. Carmody RN, Gerber GK, Luevano JM Jr, et al Diet dominates host genotype in shaping the murine gut microbiota. Cell Host Microbe. 2015;17(1):72-84.
3.Davis CD. The gut microbiome and its role in obesity. Nutr Today. 2016;51(4):167-174.
4. Gentile CL, Weir TL. The gut microbiota at the intersection of diet and human health. Science. 2018;362(6416):776-780.
5. Gomes AC, Hoffmann C, Mota JF. The human gut microbiota: Metabolism and perspective in obesity. Gut Microbes. Published online 2018:1-18.
6. John GK, Mullin GE. The gut microbiome and obesity. Curr Oncol Rep. 2016;18(7):45.
7.Kong C, Gao R, Yan X, Huang L, Qin H. Probiotics improve gut microbiota dysbiosis in obese mice fed a high-fat or high-sucrose diet. Nutrition. 2019;60:175-184.
8. Lv Y, Qin X, Jia H, Chen S, Sun W, Wang X. The association between gut microbiota composition and BMI in Chinese male college students, as analysed by next-generation sequencing. Br J Nutr. 2019;122(9):986-995.
9.Mahan LK, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process. 14th ed. Saunders; 2016.
10.Menni C, Jackson MA, Pallister T, Steves CJ, Spector TD, Valdes AM. Gut microbiom diversity and high-fibre intake are related to lower long-term weight gain. Int J Obes (Lond). 2017;41(7):1099-1105.