Staying slim is much harder these days than it was for our grandparents when they were young. We are heavier than young people in the ‘80s were by about 10 percent, despite eating the same foods and getting the same amount of exercise. Researchers believe changes in our general lifestyle and environment have raised the collective BMI, or body mass index.
Recent research shows it’s harder to maintain body weight today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, even accounting for the same diet and levels of physical activity. Overall, the BMI of the population is 2.3 points higher today than it was 30 years ago.
The study’s author said a 40-year-old today would have to eat less and exercise more than a 40-year-old in 1971 to avoid weight gain. This suggests factors beyond diet and exercise are contributing to the rise in obesity.
Factors making us fatter today
Most people, and researchers, tend to just look at diet and exercise when considering weight or BMI (body mass index).
However, obesity is much more complex than previously realized. Factors that affect our BMI include:
- Medication use
- Environmental toxins
- Meal timing
- Stress level
- Gut bacteria populations
- Nighttime light exposure
Of these factors, researchers suggest three main players:
More environmental toxins. We are exposed to more pesticides, air pollution, heavy metals, flame retardants, plastics, and more compared to 30 years ago. These toxins affect hormonal processes that govern metabolism and weight.
Increased use of prescription drugs. The use of prescription drugs has risen dramatically in the last 50 years. Antidepressants are among the most prescribed drugs and are well known for causing weight gain.
Our gut microbiome is worse. The gut microbiome, the bacteria that live in the gut, have dramatically worsened since the ‘80s.
Americans eat foods filled with antibiotics, pesticides, and other toxins; more artificial sweeteners and artificial food additives; and more junk food. All of these contribute to a deteriorating gut microbiome.
Research has shown connections between gut microbiome health and obesity, which can start at birth. In fact, studies have shown using fecal implantation — insertion of gut bacteria from a healthy slim patient into the gut of an unhealthy obese patient — causes weight loss in obese patients.
Support your microbiome with SCFA
The gut microbiome is a foundation to good health. Gut microbiome imbalances can prevent recovery from many health disorders — do what you can to support yours.
One important strategy is oral tolerance, your immune system’s ability to discern safe foods from dangerous ones. Loss of oral tolerance causes the immune system to over react to foods and develop food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, autoimmunity, and, for some people, weight gain.
You can restore oral tolerance by repairing leaky gut, supporting liver detoxification, taming high histamine, lowering stress, and stabilizing blood sugar. One way to support oral tolerance is to take short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).
SCFAs are gut signaling compounds produced by bacteria when we eat fruits and vegetables. They affect the gut, brain, and metabolism.
Your gut bacteria make SCFA but also need them as fuel to produce more SCFA. The more SCFA you make, the more your good gut bacteria can outweigh the bad.
Three main SCFAs include:
SCFAs help control your hunger and appetite, turn off insulin resistance, and burn body fat more efficiently.
When you are low in SCFAs you will:
- Have a larger appetite
- Be prone to insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes
- Store body fat better than you burn it
With poor gut diversity, SCFA can’t signal properly and the result is an “obese microbiome.”
How to support SCFA
To support healthy SCFA levels, adopt the following habits:
Eat abundant and varied produce. Eat plenty of diverse vegetables; aim for 7 to 9 servings a day. One serving consists of a half cup of chopped vegetable or one cup of shredded greens. Avoid high-sugar fruits. Switch up the produce you eat frequently.
Supplement with SCFA. Supplementing with butyrate, the main SCFA, may benefit you.
Boost glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master antioxidant that helps dampen inflammation, a main factor in loss of microbiome diversity. Take absorbable glutathione such as s-acetyl glutathione (regular glutathione isn’t absorbed well), or its precursors such as n-acetyl cysteine.
There are many other ways to support a healthy microbiome. Contact my office for more advice on maintaining a healthy weight.