January 10, 2008

A Magic Weight Loss Pill! It's True!

[By Mary]

If anyone but Dr. Mirkin wrote an article about a Magic Weight Loss pill, I wouldn't bother reading past the title. However, it might really be true this time.

(Dr. Mirkin puts out an interesting and intelligent e-Zine on health and fitness. If he were cranky as well, we'd have to just hang up our hats and go home, leaving him to do all the health reporting for us. He's really good.)

Quick biology review, stolen from Dr. Mirkin's article

You have two absorption systems in your body. You absorb most of your food as it passes through your small intestines. Food that is not absorbed in the small intestine goes to your colon. The colon contains a huge colony of bacteria that work to ferment undigested carbohydrates such as soluble fiber into short chain fatty acids and simple sugars that can then be absorbed through the colon walls into the bloodstream. Most people get about ten percent of their total calories from food absorbed through their colons.

That wasn't too long, was it?

Scientists have found that one of two different types of bacteria is dominant in mice. If the mouse is obese, it has a different type of bacteria in its system than a lean mouse has. The bad bacteria are called Firmicutes, which I swear sounds like a name thought up by a Marketing department to describe a new diet that gets rid of cellulite and makes you want to wear really short shorts. The good bacteria are called Bacteroidetes. (They really need to re-think their PR strategy.)

When I first skimmed this article, methought the findings were simply cause and result. In other words, it seemed to me that if you eat a mostly high fat diet, the "bad" bacteria proliferate because they've got more food that they like to eat. It's like providing a moist enclosed environment and then seeing a lot of very happy mildew all over the walls.

That's what I was thinking, until I got to this sentence:
"Transplanting Firmicutes bacteria into the guts of lean mice made them fat."

If that's true, perhaps the reverse is also true? If transplanting the Bacteroidetes bacteria would make fat mice thin, then there really could be such a thing as a magic weight loss pill.

Until then, I suppose we could stick with the eating-healthy-food strategy. It's not only helpful to keep the weight off, it also keeps you healthy in other ways, such as reducing the levels of inflammation in the body. Researchers in Buffalo have published studies suggesting that if a fat person and a thin person both eat a high-fat fast food meal, the obese person suffers ill effects longer than the person who is not overweight.

But that's so boring! A nice simple pill would be much nicer, preferably one that's all sparkly and cool looking. Or at least one that costs a lot of money. Since if it's cheap, well, it must not be very good, right? Maybe that's one reason no one is interested in the eating-healthy-food strategy -- it's cheaper than the fancy pills you see advertised on television.


  1. Where does the Bag Lady sign up for her transplant? She obviously has the wrong bacteria...

  2. Wow, this is really intriguing.

    I know I'm supposed to think eating in moderation and boatloads of exercise are the only way to lose weight--but hell, if I could take a (safe, no side-effect) pill and not worry about how many cupcakes and cheeseburgers I've consumed? Tempting...

    Note: have semi-functional 9 year old laptop I'm using until I can replace the computer that died yesterday. Apologies to all for cutting back on blog activities! But it's just too slow and painful and frustrating a process.

    There will still, however, be a Random Friday tomorrow. OK, back to magic pills...

  3. I just like the inference that this procedure would be a quick-and-easy way to lose weight, without all the side effects of the lap band surgery or things like that.

    Presumably us overweight people acquired the "bad" bacteria over years of unhealthy eating habits, and thus could acquire the "good" guys by eating right for years -- but why wait?

    p.s. Crabby? Maybe you should try giving the laptop some coffee?

  4. Crabby, the Bag Lady sings to you:
    "Welcome to my World..." "Slow Train to Blogworld..."
    Sorry for your troubles - hope you are up to speed soon.

  5. Yes, I'm with you all on the pill thing. While I know healthy eating is important (for more reasons than just weight management) and I do try really hard to have a healthy diet...If I could take a pill that was safe and that would actually help me lose the weight, I would so be taking it!

  6. I must be old school, but if I could acquire the right bacterias just by eating well, I still think I'd be way less hesitant to do it than to take a pill (but then, I'm of these people who hesitated for ten years before going on the pill, just because it was like taking a medication every day... gee, I hope I never develop high BP or diabetes or something!).

    Now, of course, if I also knew I could at least eat pizza or a cheeseburger from time to time without the nasty side-effect of gaining weight... Hmm...

    Interesting research, in any case. Unless we can only transplant the bacterias that make a mouse obese, because uhm... then it wouldn't be very appealing, would it? ;)

  7. "One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small..."

    Please forgive me, Gracie Slick.

  8. I'd take the pill, what's one more with all the others I have to take.

  9. Kery, I appreciate the old school approach most of the time, but part of me just wants to say "More pills! Less work!" like Reb and Javachick.

    Since the admin at my office has started taking Alli, two things have happened:
    1-she's started steadily losing weight.
    2-she's started bringing in tons of cookies and donuts and home-baked fudge.

    Somehow knowing that she could eat sweets and still lose weight (albeit with really gross side effects) has turned her into a sweet-o-holic.

    Leah - Now I've got White Rabbit stuck in my head... Oh well, it beats The Carpenters :)

  10. Ah, if only diet pills were like the picture you posted up top - M&Ms! :)

  11. "There will still, however, be a Random Friday tomorrow."

    As long as Crabby gets to make the Random-ness, and not the laptop.
    And maybe the laptop needs pills?

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  12. Oh, the magic pill. Is that in the same aisle as the fountain of youth?

  13. So interesting. I thought I was always on the cutting edge of every weight loss trend, but this is totally new information. Off to do research. Thanks, Mary!

  14. That LOL Kittehs pic is my absolute favorite out of all of them!

    On gut bacteria, I read this article sometime back, give 'em a few years and we'll have the pills. They'll be expensive.
    In the meantime, try some good probiotics and/or get good quality SUGAR FREE yogurt with tons of live culture. It'll tell you on the side. I use Mountain High original Plain. I fed it to my puppy when he was having serious gut trouble and it stablized him. Great poops that hardly smell. NO GAS! Before yogurt he could clear a room! It was the bad diet the otherwise good breeder had him on.
    Adding in good culture will help crowd out bad bacteria. Honest!

    So to continue, feed your dogs something comparable to Innova's EVO Ancestral Diet 50/50 with Evangers Lamb and Rice, and don't feed them anything with corn, wheat or soy in it. Your cats too, especially NO soy! Be prepared for a gorgeous coat and more energy than you'll know what to do with, HEY! Go for a looong walk or "jog"... ;)

    Off topic but still gut related! ;D

  15. All I know is if you muck with the internal flora of the lower and upper GI too much yo ucan get IBS or other lovely things...
    I'll stick to healthy foods. I dont' think I'd want a chronic bacterial infection in my body that was taking nutrients from me. Who know what freaky vitamin and nutrient defficiencies you'd end up with...


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