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Saturday, September 15, 2012

The problem with saying "your gut bacteria are making you fat"

Here's something I've noticed in my scanning of news about the microbiome lately: a lot of articles have been throwing around catchy headlines with some version of the phrase, "your gut bacteria are making you fat".

Some of these articles include:

Business Insider
News Hour 24
The Daily Beast
The Outsmart Hormones blog

The problem with this statement is that it doesn't represent the science. It makes it seem like your gut bacteria just turn on you one day and maliciously decide to make you pack on the pounds.

"Make" is a verb that implies action and intention. Yes, there's evidence that gut bacteria may sometimes be the mechanism kick-starting the process of fat accumulation. But in practice, the problem is the actions you take that mess with the bacterial balance in the first place. Like taking loads of antibiotics without replenishing the good bacteria, or eating the wrong diet.

Gut bacteria are players in the process - dominoes in the chain, if you will - not the things that actively make you become fat. They might be the how, but not the why.

Instead, the headlines could read: "you are making your gut bacteria make you fat".

1 comment:

  1. I guess that I don't see the issue here.

    However you choose to spin the message, the actionable part is still is the same: Our gut bacteria are very important, and we need to support them. An "intestinal gardener."

    And I try to support them by:
    1. drinking lots of plain water and whole milk, instead of processed drinks loaded with chemicals.
    2. eating lots of real foods, like whole eggs and fresh unprocessed meat like chicken, instead of processed foods loaded with chemicals.
    3. consuming lots of prebiotic fiber, especially inulin/FOS.
    4. consuming lots of probiotics, especially Greek yogurt and probiotic capsules.