- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2018

The diet plateau is a dreaded phenomenon where people trying to lose weight will suddenly and seemingly without reason stop seeing the numbers on the scale drop as consistently as they had previously.

While nutritionists will chalk this up to one’s body adjusting to a new weight, with metabolism slowing to accommodate the new reality, new research suggests that bacteria in our guts influences weight loss and gain.

In a study by researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, a small sample of participants were put on a diet regimen, and those who lost 5 percent of their body weight were also found to have an abundance of a particular bacteria compared to those who were not as successful in their weight loss.

The results of the study were published in the August issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Bacteria in our gut are an essential part of our digestive process — breaking down parts of food we can’t normally digest to convey it to particles our body can transform into energy.

To determine if such bacteria can play a role in weight loss, the researchers looked at the feces of 26 participants who had completed a three-month diet and exercise regimen set up by the Mayo Clinic Obesity Treatment Research Program.

Among participants who had successfully lost 5 percent of their body weight, researchers identified a large presence of the bacteria Phascolarctobacterium. This bacteria had earlier been identified as associated with obesity in rats.

Yet researchers took its presence to mean that it could help accelerate the effect of lifestyle and dietary choices — that if one is not exercising or eating healthy it could increase chances of being overweight or obesity, and when diet and exercise is observed, increasing the positive effects this has on the body to lose weight.

Conversely, the bacteria Dialister was present in the group that lost less than 5 percent of their starting body weight. This bacteria is associated with “oral infections, such as periodontitis, gingivitis, and dentoalveolar abscesses,” the authors wrote.

Yet the role the bacteria plays in hindering weight loss is unclear, they added.

The results of the study could lead to new interventions for weight loss. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults have obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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