Fawning over Flora

Fawning over Flora
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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.

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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 people eating plant-strong diets express more of the fat-shoveling enzyme inside the power plants inside the mitochondria within their cells.  Maybe it’s because they grow different populations of good bacteria in their gut. Maybe it’s because they’re avoiding the obesogenic, 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’s only in plant foods, and never in animal foods? It’s fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up; plants have fiber to hold them up.

I thought fiber was defined, though, 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? Propionate, which gets absorbed into our bloodstream. So, technically we can digest fiber—but just not without a little help from our little friends.

What does propionate do? Well, it inhibits cholesterol synthesis; that’s nice. It also appears to have a hypophagic effect—meaning it helps us eat less. Apparently, by slowing down the rate at which our food empties from our stomachs, thereby making us feel fuller, longer. Propionate may either 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 foodscan 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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 people eating plant-strong diets express more of the fat-shoveling enzyme inside the power plants inside the mitochondria within their cells.  Maybe it’s because they grow different populations of good bacteria in their gut. Maybe it’s because they’re avoiding the obesogenic, 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’s only in plant foods, and never in animal foods? It’s fiber. Animals have bones to hold them up; plants have fiber to hold them up.

I thought fiber was defined, though, 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? Propionate, which gets absorbed into our bloodstream. So, technically we can digest fiber—but just not without a little help from our little friends.

What does propionate do? Well, it inhibits cholesterol synthesis; that’s nice. It also appears to have a hypophagic effect—meaning it helps us eat less. Apparently, by slowing down the rate at which our food empties from our stomachs, thereby making us feel fuller, longer. Propionate may either 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 foodscan 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to Osborn via Wikimedia Commons

Nota del Doctor

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 Boosting Good Bacteria in the Colon Without Probiotics). 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 in How Fiber Lowers Cholesterol). 

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskBoosting Gut Flora Without ProbioticsTreating Parkinson’s Disease With DietAvoid Carnitine and Lethicin SupplementsSchoolchildren Should Drink More Water; and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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