It's high time you met your microbes. There are trillions of them in your body, 10 times more of them than actual human cells, in fact. The bacteria in your gut are extra special, as researchers are continuing to discover. Even though you probably don't pay much attention to them, there are anywhere between 500 and 1,000 different species of bacteria playing important roles in many aspects of your health. And now researchers think they may be involved in maintaining your weight, waist size and cholesterol levels.
A September 2015 study published in Circulation Research, an American Heart Association journal, suggests the bacteria in our intestinal tract are linked to belly fat and weight loss, which ultimately affects heart health. After looking at the gut microbes and cholesterol levels in 893 people in the Netherlands, researchers found 34 different types of bacteria contributed to about 5 percent of the difference in a person's body fat (BMI).
So it might be time to start taking our gut bacteria a little more seriously. More research needs to be done to figure out exactly how to keep the good bacteria happy and the bad bacteria quiet, but it's clear that they've got something to do with that dreaded flab around the midsection.
With so many types of gut bacteria, it makes sense that different species do different things, which is why researchers from a small August 2015 study developed a computational tool that suggests we could one day receive "tailored" diet advice based on our personal gut microbiomes.
Every day we learn a little more about the microorganisms lurking inside our colon. Only about 30 percent of them have been studied to date, so imagine what else those little guys could be doing for you, even at this very moment!