“Personal probiotics” may make weight loss easier

Fair warning: Today’s topic isn’t for the squeamish. But if you can get past the “yuck factor” it’s really quite fascinating…

Scientists are about to embark on a study that will take fecal matter from a healthy, lean person and transplant it into an obese person to help them lose weight.

This transfer of intestinal bacteria via a stool transplant has been used before. In fact, this process, called Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) has been used for years to treat gut disorders like Chron’s disease. It also has a 90% success rate in reversing potentially life-threatening cases of gut infections, such as Clostridium difficile (C-Diff).

The theory behind FMT is that taking stool from a healthy donor and transferring it to an unhealthy person can repopulate the healthy bacteria in their colon. And, in turn, the revitalized microbiome can help fight any number of health concerns. Think of it like a “personal probiotic” of sorts.

No one has ever tested it for weight loss though. Until now.

This month, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital will take fecal matter from healthy, lean individuals, freeze dry it, and then administer it in pill form to 21 obese patients.

During this study, patients will maintain their normal eating and exercise habits, but will take the pill once a day for 12 weeks. Then researchers will track their weight at 3, 6, and 12 months, and possibly beyond depending on how the trial goes. Changes in insulin sensitivity and lean and fat mass will also be measured using a metabolic scale.

It will be interesting to see how it pans out. If previous studies on the role of gut bacteria in obesity are any indication, the results could be very promising…

Back in 2006 there was a landmark study published in the journal Nature that went into detail about the differences between the gut bacteria of obese and lean individuals. Not only were there marked differences in the microbiomes of the two groups, but when obese people lost weight, their guts reverted to a healthier bacterial profile.

There have also been a few studies done on the differences of the microbiota in sets of twins, when one is lean and one is obese. And these trials have found an overall lack of bacterial diversity in the obese twin.

Pretty exciting stuff, but these sorts of trials don’t come without risks.

Just last year there was a case in which a normal-weight woman who underwent FMT for C-diff suddenly became obese. The donor was the woman’s daughter, who was overweight.

With this in mind, the researchers in this new study are using extreme caution in selecting healthy, optimal-weight donors.

At any rate, I’ll keep you posted on the results of this interesting study as they’re released. But in the meantime, the best — and simplest — way to keep your microbiome AND your weight healthy is to eat a diet based on whole, unprocessed foods. And, of course, to take a good quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement (like Dr. Ohirra’s) every day.