Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape


The last piece of the puzzle

Missing link

What’s the missing link? Something on this site isn’t right, and I think I know what it is. We get fat (and gallstones) because of a lack of nutrients – that’s the theory this whole site is about, and although I firmly believe that’s true, I knew it was missing something. Like what? Well, here's what I didn't tell you...

When I first started this blog with this idea, I knew there were a couple of holes in it. Rather than point them out, I thought I’d get out the bulk of the idea first, and then figure out how to address them. The main problems with this deficiency theory of obesity – that we eat to get the nutrients we need both to survive and then to burn off excess fat - is that it doesn’t cover all bases. Notably:

1)      Exercise. Although eat less move faster isn’t something that works in the long term, it does work for weight loss, at least the first time around you try it. Now I’m not backpedalling – it’s been shown sedentary lifestyles haven’t changed since the mid 1970s; the time when the obesity epidemic kicked off. But, none the less, exercise hard and some people lose weight, no doubt. Exercise is speeding up your metabolism, burning off body fat, but if lack of nutrients was behind obesity, why or how is exercising affecting nutrient intake?

2)      Animals are getting fatter. Animals are experiencing their own obesity epidemic, because they’re eating our food right? Well yeah, but how about the lab rats that are fatter today then they were in the 1970s when eating exactly the same diet. If it was solely about nutrients, then exactly the same food should have exactly the same results several years later. Shouldn’t it?

3)      Other diets work. While eating more meat and saturated fat has made me feel a million times brighter, faster and more alert, it’s not universal. There’s a study you can wheel out to prove anything, but in a comparison between low carbs and other diets, they all came out roughly even (in fairness, I’ve seen other metastudies showing low carb coming out on top, but I add it here for completeness).

4)      Obesity is contagious. If you have fat friends, you’re more likely to be fat yourself. Psychological? Or is it something more…

What links all of these, ties together everything else on the site, and explains uniformly why everyone and anyone gets fat? Bacteria. Obesity is a deficiency of nutrients caused by bacterial overgrowth. I say it like it’s a proven fact, and it is of course a theory, but I believe the evidence stacks up. Bacteria need nutrients to survive just like any organism. Certain foods lend themselves to bacterial overgrowth; gluten which damages the GI tract walls could reveal certain bacteria previously dormant. Sugars, starches, fats, each could feed certain bacteria which if fed too much, overtake the usual bacterial balance in the gut, producing specific cravings.

People who’ve not eaten much meat or fats in their diet? High fat, high protein diet will correct that balance (me for example).

People who’ve eaten a high fat, high protein diet who get fat? Need to lay off the saturated and go vegetarian for a while. I realise this is heresy for us Paleo types, so I’m throwing it out there.

Either way, the most effective diet will be a simple one made of whole foods. And no one’s going to argue that white flour falls into that category (I still believe white flour and sugar are the predominant causes of obesity).

This idea isn’t new incidentally, and it isn’t mine. Just up until now I thought it was an addendum to the obesity problem. I now believe poor food choices drive bacterial growth that drive specific appetite. Insulin resistance is a symptom, not a cause of this driving mechanism.

Where’s the proof?

Some proof for those that have an unnatural interest in why we’ve all got fat (note, some of these are articles that in turn to point to original sources)

Chris Kresser who first introduced me to the idea of gut bacteria and obesity connection:

We all possess three main types of gut bacteria. Crucially,

“They also show that certain strains of bacteria - varying in concentration across the three intestinal types - boost the likelihood of obesity, a discovery that could help explain why some people struggle more than others to shed excess weight.”


A startling story about a woman who had a faecal transplant to save her bowels (yeah, gross I know). Why relevant? Well she had a course of antibiotics for pneumonia that knocked out her gut bacteria allowing for a bad bacteria to take over. Antibiotics wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, and you clearly need more than a Yakult to replace them. Could antibiotics drive obesity?

Gut bacteria causes obesity

Partially related; but given that obesity is a major risk for heart disease, evidence here of how leaky guts can lead to chronic heart failure. That’ll be diet again then…

Could we manipulate the microbiotic environment to treat or prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes? Could we indeed. I’ve no idea what they're proposing, this is just an abstract, but the answer is yes you can – by diet. See any given Paleo blog or NINO diet above.

Ever wondered why the human food mountain in accounts doesn’t put on weight and you do by merely looking at a bag of crisps? “differences in caloric extraction of ingested food substances may be due to the composition of the gut microbiota

Low carbers. Damn, you lot were right all along “Cooking and processing of starch-containing foodstuffs results in a portion of the starch becoming resistant to hydrolytic enzymes secreted in the small intestine of man.”. But even better – all about processed starches and the effects on gut bacteria (full text). So you can’t break them down as easily, so you’ll be needing more of them then…

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you ;) . There’s a few unknowns here. I’d wager that moderate exercise is beneficial to gut flora, and so leads to reduction in weight in most individuals. There’s also knowing what specific flora are responsible for processing nutrients too, but Rome didn’t get fat in a day so I’m parking that for now.

Can you catch obesity?

If obesity is bacterial, what’s causing the bacterial overgrowth? Well foods are the obvious candidate. No doubt certain food disrupts bacterial balance; the more processed the food the bigger the impact. But probably not the only way. Consider a few others…
By mouth: Discusses the possibility that oral bacteria may participate in the pathology that leads to obesity
By pigeon shit. Why not? Pigeons are carriers of plenty of human diseases (hundreds of studies here) ...

They’re getting fat as you probably noticed (bored? See lots of fat pigeons here)

And the population is exploding both in the UK and worldwide.

Bah, give me the 1 line summary

OK, it's simply this: Eat real food.

I promise not to use any more monkey pictures. This one from Spacedust Design

Comments (7) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Can you catch obesity? That is great, Mike! What an insightful correlation you’ve examined and what an interesting blog you have.

    Bacteria is definitely a culprit in malnutrition and, consequently, food cravings (which doesn’t help the problem).

  2. Not sure what I think about this theory yet, but I love how it all comes back to the one line summary. That part I have no doubts about.

  3. “Low carbers. Damn, you were right all along.”

    I knew you’d come around.

    BTW, I sent a bunch of the info here to my brother-in-law, who is schedule to have gallbladder surgery soon.

    And congratulations on getting your health back on track.

    • Yeah, never let it be said I won’t change my mind if the evidence stacks up ;) . Good luck to your brother-in-law. From what I can gather it depends on how far it’s gone as to whether it’s feasible to reverse the damage done.

  4. how does exercise help gut bacteria? curious to know. is there a site that lists the differnt bacteria in your gut and what they feed on?



    • Hi Rose, gut bacteria is such an emerging science that I suspect noone knows, though if anyone’s seen anything on this let me know. Profiling gut bacteria is an ongoing project which if I remember right is due to be finished next year. So keep an eye out!

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