The Microbiome Obesity Connection


Gaining weight seems like an inevitable fact of life. However, the development of fast and prepared foods has redefined how the world operates, starting at the dinner table. With more access to calorie-dense foods, weight gain has become more common. Combined with the shift toward processed foods and away from daily physical activity, more Americans are becoming obese each year.

The prevalence of obesity has almost doubled since the 1980s among adults in the US. As of now, almost 65% of the adult population is overweight and about 32% are obese. To make things worse, the prevalence of obesity in children has more than tripled since the 1980s. This is highly concerning because obesity is associated with multiple health conditions.

Obesity is more than just an over-accumulation of fat on a person’s body. It means an increased risk for chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. With the number of people who are overweight or obese in our nation upwards of two-thirds of the country, anti-obesity strategies remain a top priority to most healthcare specialists.

Summed up: losing fat and maintaining a healthy weight may be the difference between living a long and healthy life, and potentially facing a future riddled with disease.

By losing excess weight, you can improve your quality of life long-term and also see immediate effects on your health. Studies have shown that even a loss of 5 pounds can greatly improve your blood pressure and ease the strain on your heart.

When the diet trends fail

Whether your reasons to lose weight rest on your current health or goals for your future, the struggle to lose weight is a real one. With so many fad diets and conflicting advice available, it’s a wonder any of it works. There are times, though, when dropping the number on the scale may be more elusive than imagined. Despite a high-level commitment and a strong sense of determination, weight loss may be difficult to obtain. It can vary based on your gender, ethnicity, genetics, diet, and even medication. And the science backs this up.

Over the last few decades, researchers have been on a quest to find the root causes of obesity. With research on the gut microbiome rolling in on a regular basis, scientists have recently uncovered evidence that your gut microbes may also be partly to blame.

Studies have shown that individuals with obesity have created an “obesity signature” inside their gut microbiome that has shaped how their metabolism functions. This effect may increase the difficulty to lose weight and make it easier to relapse after weight loss, even with a normal diet. The signature is defined by changes in microbial populations that may contribute to changes in our metabolism through genetic and environmental factors. A number of animal studies have confirmed this, finding certain bacterial strain types drastically influenced how the animals gained weight. In fact, by introducing a fecal transplant from obese mice to normal weight mice, the normal weight mice began to gain weight, eventually causing them to appear just like their obese counterparts.

Diet plays a crucial role in shaping our gut ecosystem. A diet consisting of highly processed foods has been linked to less diversity in gut microbes. And an unhealthy diet somehow prevents the beneficial bacterial groups from flourishing in our guts. Antibiotic use in children can have implications in obesity. This is due to the destruction of beneficial microbial communities. And it is these microbes that play a role in maintaining healthy body weight. This gives more reason to carefully administer antibiotics and also to take necessary precautions to subdue the adverse effects of the same.

Update your weight loss toolbox

Despite the challenge, losing weight isn’t hopeless. It just doesn’t require the same approach for each person. This is the fundamental reason why re-defining personalized nutrition is at the heart of what Viome stands for. When you have spent years living a certain way, your body adapts, including your gut microbiome. Making sudden changes to your diet may help kick start your weight loss journey, but without understanding what is happening inside you - your weight loss may become only a temporary reprieve.

Although some changes can rapidly transform our gut diversity, making long term changes that stick may require time and occasional check-ins. In order to begin a full microbiome revolution, you need to know what soldiers to beef up and which to cut back. Exploring your army of microbes and understanding how they influence the balance in your gut can lead to exciting changes. It’s not always about starting your journey toward losing weight, it’s also about giving you the proper tools to help you invoke long-term change.

Evolving your diet to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a step in the right direction, but without fine-tuning what foods help your personal microbes thrive, it’s like you’re changing out unleaded gas for premium gas in a well-worn car. Sure, it might run a little smoother, but there might be a handful of other things under the hood that need attention too. In order to get it running in tip-top shape, you have to actually pop the hood and take a peek first. Viome offers the opportunity to get a deeper look to uncover what’s really going on.

No car is ever exactly the same. We all have chosen our own unique path to travel. That doesn’t make one car better or worse than the next, just unique to our own story. So if you’re looking to get another 100,000 miles and improve your health, you may want to consider investing a little TLC from time to time and get familiar with what’s inside you.


  1. Bray, G. A., Fruhbeck, G., Ryan, D. H., & Wilding, J. P. (2016). Management of obesity. Lancet, 387 (10031), 1947-1956. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00271-3

  2. Engin, A. (2017). The Definition and Prevalence of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Adv Exp Med Biol, 960, 1-17. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-48382-5_1

  3. Ridaura, V. K., Faith, J. J., Rey, F. E., Cheng, J., Duncan, A. E., Kau, A. L., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2013). Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science, 341 (6150), 1241214. doi:10.1126/science.1241214

  4. Tsai, F., & Coyle, W. J. (2009). The microbiome and obesity: is obesity linked to our gut flora? Curr Gastroenterol Rep, 11 (4), 307-313.

  5. Turnbaugh, P. J., Hamady, M., Yatsunenko, T., Cantarel, B. L., Duncan, A., Ley, R. E., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2009). A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature, 457 (7228), 480-484. doi:10.1038/nature07540

  6. Warburton, D. E. R., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2017). Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Curr Opin Cardiol, 32 (5), 541-556. doi:10.1097/HCO.0000000000000437

  7. Zhang, Z., & Li, D. (2018). Thermal processing of food reduces gut microbiota diversity of the host and triggers adaptation of the microbiota: evidence from two vertebrates. Microbiome, 6 (1), 99. doi:10.1186/s40168-018-0471-y