Can a Diet Lead to Weight Gain?

Here’s some bad news for yo-yo dieters: your diet may be the reason you can’t lose weight. For many with long-term weight problems, losing weight becomes increasingly difficult the more they start and stop diets. This phenomenon has been attributed to changes in metabolism from chronic yo-yo dieting (dieting in and off), but new research suggests another culprit.

Current research suggests that the reason yo-yo dieters have trouble losing weight involves changes in the gut bacteria’s interactions with dietary flavonoids, making fat loss increasingly difficult over time. The average western diet is relatively low in flavonoids, and a lack of these crucial nutrients can halt any weight loss progress.

Flavonoid and Gut Bacteria Interaction

Gut bacteria have the unique ability to liberate and destroy flavonoids. Flavonoids exist in a wide variety of foods, but are especially prevalent in fruits, vegetables, teas, and spices. They assist with fat loss, disease prevention, and inflammation reduction. Flavonoids can increase the diversity of the microbe population in the gut, which helps promote a healthy level of body fat.

How Yo-Yo Dieting Affects Gut Health

When studied in lab mice, yo-yo dieting had a profound effect on fat gain and loss. Mice that were fed high-fat diets to induce weight gain experienced a drop in the diversity of their gut bacteria. When they were fed a caloric deficit to induce weight loss, the diversity of gut bacteria increased, but never reached its former levels.

When the diversity of this bacteria decreased, the mice experienced a more difficult time reducing their weight, even in a caloric deficit. Each time the mice gained weight and then attempted to lose it, losing the weight again became even more difficult.

How to Remedy the Issue

Researchers found that when the diversity of the gut microbiome was decreased, the bacteria had a greater propensity for destroying dietary flavonoids. Fortunately, however, when the diet included increased amounts of two dietary flavonoids, naringenin and apigenin, the mice resumed normal weight loss.

Researchers found that an increase in the amount of these two flavonoids in the diet helped the mice reverse the effects of yo-yo dieting. These flavonoids are found in high concentrations in celery, grapefruit, and parsley. For those experiencing increasing difficulty losing weight due to chronic yo-yo dieting, including substantial quantities of these foods in the diet may help to induce normal weight loss.

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