June 4, 2018

The Microbiome: A Startling Solution to the Obesity Epidemic.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Naveen Jain


When I was in medical school, almost no attention was paid to nutrition, and obesity was understood through a simple equation: Calories in equals pounds on. In other words, if you were fat, you ate too much. There was some concession given to differing metabolic rates among people, and on the medical side hormonal imbalance was sometimes the underlying cause of weight gain. But the overall picture was that people got fat because they overate.


It has taken three decades to overturn this obstinate and judgmental belief, because it was only a belief. Now we know that the digestion of food is incredibly complex, far removed from the simplistic notion that the body is a furnace burning fuel the way a steam engine burns coal. 


Steadily and with incredible results the complexity of obesity is being unraveled through the microbiome, the thousands of micro-organisms that populate the body, chiefly in the intestinal tract. We each carry around 3 pounds of these microbiota, as they are known, or about the same weight as the brain. Their genome has evolved with our own, adding perhaps 2 million genes to the 23,000 genes in the human genome.


To control and reverse obesity by altering the microbiome is now the goal, because it is effortless, scientifically valid, and at times amazingly effective. Consider a groundbreaking study from China, now in press with the journal BioMedicine. The researchers gathered volunteers who were all children, suffering from either a genetic disorder, Prader-Willi syndrome, or what doctors call simple obesity. The obesity epidemic among children is very poignant, and yet we are still clinging to judgment against them or their parents.


What all of these obese children, aging from 3 to 16, had in common is well known to millions of obese adults: “Bodyweight management …has proven to be extraordinarily difficult as they have a low muscle tone that tends to result in less physical activity than normal, a chronic and uncontrollable feeling of hunger, and a deficit of satiety that drives their constant food-craving behavior.” Yet a startling reversal in their condition occurred in 30 days by switching to a diet that returned the children’s microbiome to a healthy state, not only causing pounds to drop off and the return of normal appetite but improving medical markers like inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream and insulin resistance, both of which are very common among obese adults and laboratory animals.


The diet the researchers devised was based on traditional Chinese diet, including some medicinal herbs, but in essence the aim was universal: to give the microbiota what it wanted in order to thrive. This meant an increase in complex carbohydrates from 52% to 62% (in this case, brown rice), a decrease in fat from 30% to 20%, and a huge, eightfold increase in fiber, from 6 grams per day to 49 grams.  These are major dietary changes, and so was the 30% calorie reduction each child underwent.


But just as major was the reversal of the ill effects of obesity on the entire system, along with an average of losing 9% of body weight in 30 days.   For those children who chose to stay on the program under hospital supervision for another 30 days, weight loss doubled. For one subject, who was hospitalized on the program for 285 days with a continuation at home, his weight went from 308 lbs. to 160 lbs. Yet medically the most surprising result was that these benefits were experienced equally by the children with an uncontrollable genetic disorder and those with simple obesity.


The Chinese study had a foundation in anecdote, which is related in my book Super Genes, co-authored with Harvard geneticist Rudy Tanzi. A Chinese microbiologist named Liping Zhao used himself as a guinea pig to change his own microbiome. Zhao reversed his own obesity, high level of “bad” cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure by switching to a diet high in whole grains along with two foods taken to be beneficial in Chinese medicine, bitter melon and Chinese yam.  His hypothesis was that obesity is connected to chronic low-level inflammation, and now abundant research is making that connection more strongly.


But interventions at the microbiome level are just beginning to be understood. In laboratory mice who are given antibiotics to wipe out their gut bacteria, obesity and insulin resistance can be controlled by inserting the microbiome of other mice. If the microbiome of obese mice is inserted, the germ-free mice begin to put on fatty deposits and develop insulin resistance. Inserting a healthy person’s microbiome in humans has already shown results in conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease. There may be unexpected hazards to getting a fecal transplant–and the prospect is repugnant to most people–so the medical establishment is moving slowly.


Yet just as people now routinely get their genomes scanned, a microbiome scan will one day, and probably very soon, become routine and inexpensive. The field of dietary intervention through prebiotics and probiotics is booming already.  If the Chinese diet used in the children’s study is any guide, we need to rethink high fiber intake along with complex carbs as the norm. Decades after the inflexible axiom of “calories in, calories out,” the failure to address weight gain now shows very hopeful signs, and the best news is that a cure can occur without self-judgment and shame. 


Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are The Healing Self co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, Ph.D. and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com   


Naveen Jain is an entrepreneur driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges through innovation. He is the founder of several successful companies including Moon Express, Viome, Bluedot, TalentWise, Intelius and InfoSpace. Moon Express is the only company to have permission from the US government to leave earth orbit and land on the moon. Viome is focused on disrupting healthcare with the goal of “making illness elective” by identifying biomarkers that are predictive of chronic diseases and preventing them through personalized diet & nutrition. Naveen is a director of the board at the X PRIZE Foundation and Singularity University. He has been awarded many honors including “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year”, “Albert Einstein Technology Medal” for pioneers in technology, “Humanitarian Innovation Award” at the United Nations, “Distinguished Global Thinker Award” by IILM, and “Top 20 Entrepreneurs” by Red Herring.


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  1. Calories in, vs calories burned... Simple math

  2. Calories in, vs calories burned... Simple math

  3. Translate please!!! To Spanish

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