An apple a day keeps obesity away?

applestwoMake that “a Granny Smith a day”?

Gut bacteria are under the microscope, so to speak, when it comes to obesity.  We know that:

  • obese people have very different gut bacteria populations compared to lean people
  • when obese people lose weight, their gut bacteria population changes to be more like those of lean people
  • certain gut bacteria may cause people to either absorb more calories or waste more calories
  • for better or worse, what you eat influences your gut bacteria profile

Can we conclude that taking some probiotic supplement will fix your gut bacteria?  Not. So. Fast.  We don’t even know which specific bacteria might influence weight, let alone if those can be packaged up in pills or survive the trip through your stomach to your intestines.

Which leaves food.  Yogurt is famous for containing friendly bacteria, although those aren’t necessarily the bacteria that influence weight.  A new study suggests apples, particularly Granny Smiths, contain fiber and bioactive compounds that encourage growth of bacterial populations more like those in lean people.

Unfortunately, the study was done on mice, so it’s not clear that the results apply to humans.  Nevertheless, here’s now it went:

  1. Several types of apples were analyzed for fiber and bioactive compounds.  Granny Smiths turned out to have the highest levels.
  2. The compounds from Granny Smith apples were fermented with feces from obese mice.
  3. The bacterial populations in those feces samples changed to resemble populations from lean mice.

In other words, the apple compounds changed the obese mouse gut bacteria populations to be more like lean mouse bacteria.  Does this mean if you start eating Granny Smith apples, you’ll lose weight?  That question was not answered.  Mouse bacteria may behave differently, and respond to foods differently, from human gut bacteria.  Even if they behave in a similar way, we don’t know how much Granny Smith apple compounds we’d need to cause a meaningful change.  Is one apple a day enough?  What about the rest of your diet?

It’s a safe bet that one apple a day won’t make up for a junky diet of processed foods.  All the foods you eat influence your microbiome.

It’s also a safe bet that eating an apple a day isn’t a bad thing, regardless of effect on your gut bacteria.  Apples are filling, and help curb appetite.  They’re a nice addition to any meal or snack.  So if you’re on a diet, there’s no downside to an apple.  And who knows, there might be an upside beyond the effect on appetite.

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