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Gut Microbiome Research Offers Potential Treatment for Obesity

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Gut Microbiome Research Offers Potential Treatment for Obesity

— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.

Over the past 10 years, evidence-based research on Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD) has increased; as a result, there has been recognition and acceptance of this weight loss approach as being safe and effective. Improvements to physical and mental well-being are consistent among findings, with significant health benefits, including reduction or elimination of diabetes medications, as well as improvements in cardiovascular health and surgical outcomes. With few adverse side effects and greater long-term weight loss, VLCDs are a highly viable option for many people with obesity.1

A recent study sheds new light on why VLCDs are effective.2  A collaborative study by Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of California in San Francisco found that gut microbiota is significantly altered by a VLCD though an increase in Clostridioides difficile. These bacteria are more commonly associated with inflammation of the colon and often brought on by the use of antibiotics. In such cases, healthy bacteria is disrupted and the patient experiences stomach pain, diarrhea and fever. It can cause severe damage to the colon and in some cases can be fatal.

The Effect of a VLCD on Gut Bacteria

In the Charité study, however, there was no gut inflammation. Rather, the VLCDs reduced the number of microorganisms and changed the composition of the gut microbiome by absorbing sugar molecules. This study demonstrates the effect of the gut bacteria on the absorption of food with no ill effects to the host. These findings were similar in human and animal studies.

While research on obesity and the gut microbiome is prolific, including studies with direct links to VLCDs3, this study is one of few that look at the specifical effects of Clostridioides difficile in this context. Certainly, additional research is necessary to determine if these asymptomatic outcomes are consistent. Still, these findings provide insights on the positive effects of VLCDs, such as the New Direction Program, which could potentially create opportunities to further treat obesity and other metabolic syndrome disorders.


  1. Clinical Effectiveness of Very Low-energy Diets in the Management of Weight Loss
  2. Dieting and its Effect on the Gut Microbiome
  3. Effect of Caloric Restriction on Gut Permeability, Inflammation Markers, and Fecal Microbiota in Obese Women

About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.

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