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If You’re On Any Supplements, You Need To Know About These Weird Facts – Says New Study

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If you are concerned with your health, you should also consider what your gut microbes eat. Their main nutrient source is dietary fiber. Therefore, it is well known that the amount of fiber in your diet affects your weight, blood sugar level, and insulin sensitivity.

In addition to making bowel movements easier, dietary fiber has numerous other health benefits.

Keeping your gut microorganisms and intestinal cells healthy requires a steady supply of nutrients, and fermentable fiber is an excellent provider of those nutrients.

The people in the study who were eating the least fiber before they were given three different kinds of fiber supplements benefited the most from the supplements, no matter which ones they took.

A thorough investigation of the gut microorganisms of study participants who were offered three different types of supplements in different sequences reveals that persons who ate the least amount of fiber prior to the study benefited the most from supplements, no matter which ones they took.

“The people who responded the best,” says study lead author Lawrence David, “had been eating the least fiber to start with.”

Dietary fiber is good for you in more ways than just making it easier to go to the bathroom. Fermentable fiber, which is composed of dietary carbohydrates that some bacteria can digest but which the human gut cannot, is a crucial source of nutrients for the health of your gut flora.

Former PhD student in the David lab and co-author of two recent papers on fiber, Zack Holmes, says “we’ve evolved to depend on nutrients that our microbiomes produce for us.” 

However, due to recent dietary changes away from fiber-rich foods, we are no longer providing our bacteria with what they require.

A high-fiber diet encourages your gut flora to produce more short-chain fatty acids, which shield you from conditions like obesity and colorectal cancer. And in particular, they make more of the fatty acid butyrate, which serves as the actual fuel for the intestinal cells. Butyrate has been demonstrated to increase the host’s intestines’ resistance to infections, reduce inflammation, and produce happier, healthier intestinal lining cells.

David’s research team wanted to know if it might be necessary to “personalize” fiber supplements for different people, since different fermentable fibers have been proven to have different effects on the production of short-chain fatty acids in different people.

“We didn’t see a lot of difference between the fiber supplements we tested. Rather, they looked interchangeable,” says David, adding “Regardless of which of the test supplements you pick, it seems your microbiome will thank you with more butyrate.

The average American adult only eats 20–40% of the recommended daily amount of fiber. This is thought to be the cause of many common health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, digestive problems, and colon cancer. Convenient fiber supplements that can boost the formation of short-chain fatty acids have been developed as an alternative to going completely vegetarian or eating pounds of kale every day.

The Duke studies looked at inulin, dextrin (Benefiber), and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), which are sold under the brand name Bimuno. The 28 participants were divided into three groups and given each of the three supplements for one week in a different order. There was a week off between supplements to allow individuals’ guts to return to their pre-supplement states.

David said that the people who had been eating the most fiber before the study showed the least change in their microbiomes, and it didn’t matter what kind of supplement they took. This is likely because they already had a better population of gut bugs.

Contrarily, regardless of which supplement was taken, those who had been taking the least fiber saw the greatest increase in butyrate.

In a second study that the David lab did with help from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, they observed that gut microbes reacted to a new addition of fiber within a day, drastically changing the number of bugs in the gut and which genes they were using to digest food.

The researchers discovered that the gut microorganisms were primed by the first dose to absorb fiber and quickly digested it on the second dose using their artificial gut fermenters.

The primary author of the second study, graduate student Jeffrey Letourneau, called the results “encouraging.” 

“If you’re a low fiber consumer, it’s probably not worth it to stress so much about which kind of fiber to add. It’s just important that you find something that works for you in a sustainable way.”

But it doesn’t have to be a supplement either. It might simply be a diet high in fiber. People who ate a lot of fiber—found in foods like citrus, leafy greens, and beans—already had very healthy microbiomes, according to the authors.

Image Credit: Getty

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