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The link between SCFAs and your body weight

Are you tired of fad diets and feeling hungry all the time?

Do you feel that your metabolism is too slow and no matter what you do, you just can’t lose weight?

Many people have problems controlling their body weight for a variety of reasons, one of which is eating unhealthy food1.

The food we eat does have a significant impact on our overall state of health and also our body weight. In fact, there is compelling evidence that a lack of fiber in the diet is a problem that can lead to weight gain and various health problems.

Scientists have now recognized that fiber should be a key part of a person’s diet. Researchers have even found evidence that people who have a high fiber intake have a lower rate of obesity2. Obesity is a problem because it is associated with many health problems including heart disease and diabetes3 – both being conditions which are disabling and often deadly.

Fiber and microbes

Now, you understand that a high fiber diet means lower risk of obesity…well, the opposite is also true! A lack of fiber in the diet is, in fact, implicated in weight gain4.

Researchers have found that the presence of fiber is linked to the type of microbes present in the gut5. The microbial fauna are the bacteria that live in your gut which help to digest food and also assist the immune system.In short, healthy microbes are what you need to stay healthy, and having the wrong types of microbes is associated with obesity and even the development of diabetes6.

Your microbiome is essential for good health, since these organisms break down many substances that are otherwise indigestible, and they produce useful fatty acid molecules in the process. Your diet influences what microbes live in your gut, and therefore the types of these fatty acids that are formed. This is because the presence of fiber encourages the growth of beneficial microbes, which produce these helpful molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).

The importance of short-chain fatty acids

People today are often too hurried to worry about eating healthy and often choose to eat food that is convenient and low in fiber. Not having enough fiber in the diet means reduced production of the specific SCFA compounds that are important for good health and weight control, such as butyrate, acetate and propionate7.

The SCFAs actually help by impacting your hormones and metabolism and are thus important when it comes to managing your body weight and, in turn, keeping you healthy8.

In fact, these SCFAs are able to regulate major contributors to weight gain such as hunger and fullness hormones, and blood sugar levels8!

Two of these SCFAs, propionate and acetate, are particularly important in the metabolism of fats and sugars9. Acetate is the SCFA that actually suppresses appetite10, which means that you get hungry less often and feel full sooner while consuming a meal. This process is essential because it helps to prevent overeating – which is an easy thing to do with all of the high sugar, high-salt foods on the market, tricking our taste buds into wanting more!

SCFAs also assist in other processes which are important to managing health and body weight, such as immune regulation and detoxification. Butyrate is particularly well-known for being an immune-regulator, and decreasing levels of inflammation in the body – while, propionate stops liver cells from taking up excess fat from the bloodstream, to ensure a healthy liver for optimal detoxification. 11,12.

What steps can you take to increase SCFA production?

If you haven’t already guessed – one of the simplest and most important steps you can take to increase the production of SCFAs in the body is by increasing your dietary fiber! You should examine your diet and ask yourself if you are taking in enough fiber – for reference, a minimum of 35g fiber daily is a great goal to aim for.

But wait – aren’t there different types of fiber? Is there a particular kind you should focus on?

Having a variety of fiber is important because each type assists with different processes in the body and helps to support a balanced and diverse microbiome. However, when discussing SCFAs, specifically, a class of fiber known as prebiotic fiber are great for ramping up bacterial SCFA production!

Prebiotic fiber can be found in a variety of natural foods such as onions, leeks and bananas. However, one source in particular, known as yacon root, contains high concentrations of two helpful prebiotic fibers called fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin13.

By acting as food for your microbes, FOS and inulin have shown in studies to achieve all of the benefits listed above such as weight regulation, inflammatory reduction, blood sugar control and enhanced detoxification 14,15.

Hitting the gym is an essential part of a routine to maintain your health and weight. However, many people underestimate what a huge difference dietary fiber can make! Adding in concentrated sources of the right types of fiber, such as yacon root, can do wonders for complementing your current fitness routine and help you get closer to your health and physique goals, with minimal added effort.

Now that you know the importance of fiber in your diet, there’s no better time to start than today! Remember, a fiber-filled life is a healthy life!

References:

1. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2392-404.

2. Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition. 2005 Mar 1;21(3):411-8.

3. Wannamethee SG, Shaper AG, Walker M. Overweight and obesity and weight change in middle-aged men: impact on cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2005 Feb 1;59(2):134-9.

4. Artiss JD, Brogan K, Brucal M, Moghaddam M, Jen KL. The effects of a new soluble dietary fiber on weight gain and selected blood parameters in rats. Metabolism. 2006 Feb 1;55(2):195-202.

5. Blaut M. Gut microbiota and energy balance: role in obesity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2015 Aug;74(3):227-34.

6. Chambers ES, Preston T, Frost G, Morrison DJ. Role of gut Microbiota-Generated short-chain fatty acids in metabolic and cardiovascular health. Current nutrition reports. 2018 Dec 1;7(4):198-206.

7. Lin HV, Frassetto A, Kowalik Jr EJ, Nawrocki AR, Lu MM, Kosinski JR, Hubert JA, Szeto D, Yao X, Forrest G, Marsh DJ. Butyrate and propionate protect against diet-induced obesity and regulate gut hormones via free fatty acid receptor 3-independent mechanisms. PloS one. 2012 Apr 10;7(4):e35240.

8. Tan J, McKenzie C, Potamitis M, Thorburn AN, Mackay CR, Macia L. The role of short-chain fatty acids in health and disease. In Advances in immunology 2014 Jan 1 (Vol. 121, pp. 91-119). Academic Press.

9. Blaut M. Gut microbiota and energy balance: role in obesity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2015 Aug;74(3):227-34.

10. Frost G, Sleeth ML, Sahuri-Arisoylu M, Lizarbe B, Cerdan S, Brody L, Anastasovska J, Ghourab S, Hankir M, Zhang S, Carling D. The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nature communications. 2014 Apr 29;5:3611.

11. Chambers, E.S., Byrne, C.S., Rugyendo, A., Morrison, D.J., Preston, T., Tedford, C., Bell, J.D., Thomas, L., Akbar, A.N., Riddell, N.E. and Sharma, R., 2019. The effects of dietary supplementation with inulin and inulin‐propionate ester on hepatic steatosis in adults with non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 21(2), pp.372-376.

12. den Besten G, Bleeker A, Gerding A, van Eunen K, Havinga R, van Dijk TH, Oosterveer MH, Jonker JW, Groen AK, Reijngoud DJ, Bakker BM. Short-chain fatty acids protect against high-fat diet–induced obesity via a PPARγ-dependent switch from lipogenesis to fat oxidation. Diabetes. 2015 Jul 1;64(7):2398-408.

13. Delgado GT, Tamashiro WM, Junior MR, Pastore GM. Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius): a functional food. Plant foods for human nutrition. 2013 Sep 1;68(3):222-8.

14. Bibas Bonet ME, Meson O, De Moreno De Leblanc A, Dogi CA, Chaves S, Kortsarz A, Grau A, Perdigón G. Prebiotic effect of yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) on intestinal mucosa using a mouse model. Food and agricultural immunology. 2010 Jun 1;21(2):175-89.

15. Habib NC, Honoré SM, Genta SB, Sánchez SS. Hypolipidemic effect of Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) roots on diabetic rats: Biochemical approach. Chemico-Biological Interactions. 2011 Oct 15;194(1):31-9.

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