Want to Keep Fit After A Diet? Use Your Poo

Elad Simchayoff

New study finds surprising benefits of microbiota

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Burden with Weight

Weight is a heavy issue. 71.6% of Americans are overweight or obese. In the UK, 62% of the population is overweight, the largest in Europe. Conservative estimates attribute 1 in 5 deaths to overweight and obesity. Obesity alone costs $147 billion a year in care and has a $3.38 billion damage to national productivity in the US. It’s no wonder that the American weight loss and diet industry is worth $72 billion. Between 2013–2016, 49.1% of American adults tried a diet within 12 months. The depressing part is that an estimated 80%–95% of those who lost weight on a diet, regained it in a few months.

Overweight and obesity are costing peoples’ lives, they're costing peoples’ well-being, and they’re costing billions and billions of dollars. There might, however, be an unusual and surprising way to help tackle this issue. Poo. It’s more powerful than you think.

The Powers of Poo

The concept of treating patients suffering from bowel problems with fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) appears in documents dated 1,700 years ago in Chine. The method, back then, was very primitive and so, with your permission, I won’t elaborate on that any further.

The procedure has, however, developed quite significantly since. And yet, it is still a relatively emerging field of research which is gaining more interest in recent years.

Our gastrointestinal tract is home to between 15,000–36,000 different bacterial species. Altogether, our gut hosts millions of bacteria, some of which help our body fight diseases. An unbalanced bacteria level could cause intestinal problems and diarrhea.

And so, the basis to the fecal transplant makes a lot of sense. Fecal microbiota from a healthy, balanced donor is transferred to a sick patient in need of treatment. In 2016, researchers from Harvard looked into patients suffering from Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), a condition causing diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. In the study, 202 patients were treated with fecal microbiota in the form of specially-made capsules. The results of the treatment were better than those of antibiotics. FMT was found to be the most cost-effective method for treating recurrent CDI.

Other studies reached a similar conclusion. However, it is important to note that, as with a blood transplant, FMT might cause risks and samples should be properly screened before a transplant.

Keeping Fit with FMT

Following the success of FMT to treat gastronomic issues, a group of researches from the Ben-Gurion University in Israel decided to try something else. In a recent study, yet to be published, 90 overweight participants were divided and assigned different dietary regimes which they were asked to follow for 14 months. 6 months after starting the diet, and with an average weight loss of 8.3 kg (18.3 lbs), the participants were asked to provide a fecal sample that was then processed into FMT capsules. Half the group received 100 FMT capsules, each containing his own sample. The other half received a placebo.

For the first time ever, the researchers decided to conduct an FMT in which the donor is also the recipient. The question tested was whether the good fecal bacteria, from the peak of the diet process, would be able to help the body keep fit during the later months of the process when usually the person starts regaining lost weight.

No side effects were apparent for either group. The treatment seemed completely safe. In the group that went through a “green-Mediterranean diet”, the participants who took the placebo regained 50% of their original weight after 14 months. Those who received FMT regained 17.1% of their original weight.

The green-Mediterranean diet, with less red and processed meat, combined with the FMT, also produced a change in the body’s bacterial composition and promoted a higher level of weight loss-associated bacteria.

Overall, the researches concluded, FMT collected during the weight loss phase and administrated in the reagin phase might significantly preserve weight loss. The authors hope that with this new method of reserving fecal microbiota for later use, other problems and diseases might also find a suitable solution.

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I love writing about what I love. Journalist. Always curious. Israeli born, London based. Father, Husband, and a dog person.

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