The good bacteria in our gut can digest the fiber we eat and turn it into an anti-obesity compound called propionate that we absorb back into our system.
Image thanks to Osborn via Wikimedia Commons.
Obesity is so rare among those eating plant based diets, nutrition researchers have been desperate to uncover their secret. Yes, they tend to eat fewer calories - but not that many fewer.
In the past I’ve gone through a couple of theories that have emerged: Maybe it’s because of people eating plant strong diets express more of the fat shoveling enzyme inside the power plants inside the mitochondria within their cells. Maybe it is because they grow different populations of good bacteria in their gut. Maybe it is because they are avoiding the obesigenic endocrine-disrupting industrial pollutants in the meat supply. An obesity causing virus in poultry may even be contributing. We’re still not sure, but the theories keep coming.
Here’s the latest, maybe it’s the propionate? After all, what’s one of the things that are always in plant food and never in animal food? It’s fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up and plants have fiber to hold them up. I thought fiber was defined by our inability to digest it. Sure, we can’t break it down but the gazillions of good bacteria in our guts can. What do they make with it? They make Propionate, which gets absorbed into our bloodstream. So - technically we can digest fiber, just not without a little help from our little friends.
What does propionate do? Well, it inhibits cholesterol synthesis and it has a hypophagic effect meaning it helps us eat less. Apparently it does this by slowing down the rate at which our food empties from our stomachs thereby making us feel fuller, longer. Propionate may be able to regulate food intake or the generation of new fat cells, resulting in an overall anti-obesity effect. One of the many ways fiber containing foods - meaning whole plant foods can help us control our weight.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.
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I thought this was so fascinating I included it in my 2012 presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. The fat-shoveling enzyme theory I mention is covered in How to Upregulate Metabolism. I mention the differential good bacteria in Gut Flora Obesity (and in tomorrow's video-of-the-day Boosting Good Bacteria in the Colon Without Probiotics). And the other theories I mention are covered in Obesity Causing Pollutants in Food and Obesity Causing Chicken Virus. How slim are those eating plant-based diets? See Thousands of Vegans Studied. For more on fabulous fiber, see What Women Should Eat to Live Longer and Relieving Yourself of Excess Estrogen (also covered just the other day in How Fiber Lowers Cholesterol). Please feel free to subscribe to my future videos (for free) by clicking here.
For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, Boosting Gut Flora Without Probiotics, Treating Parkinson's Disease with Diet, Avoid Carnitine and Lethicin Supplements,Schoolchildren Should Drink More Water, and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health