Doctors can never be too certain that a diet regimen they assign to a patient will be effective because every patient is different. Certain recommendations — like avoiding the McWhoppers or the taco with a chicken shell — obviously lead to invariably positive results, but dieting is generally a bit subtler than that. In a new study from Cell Metabolism, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have found that it’s our gut bacteria, in particular, that is the best determinant for the diet that will lead to notable weight reduction.

Scientists studied each participants’ individual gut microbiome to determine whether they had a low-diversity gut microbiome or “biological diversity” of the stomach. The patients with lower gut diversity responded better to the weight loss diet than their high-diversity counterparts because they “produce fewer amino acids when they follow this diet,” according to Chalmers’s lead researcher, Jens Nielsen. It’s possible, as Nielsen hypothesizes, that with fewer amino acids the body can’t produce as much protein, which would lead to the higher weight loss.

Knowing a patient’s gut microbiome could allow nutritionists and doctors to prescribe weight-loss diets (as opposed to, say, blood pressure-focussed diets) better tailored to individual stomaches. But that’s really only half the battle. Karine Clément (of the Institute of Cardiometabolism and Nutrition) believes that doctors will soon be able to add bacteria to deficient intestines, improving a person’s chance of losing weight. Probiotics, like yogurt, are known to help maintain a healthy diet, but bespoke drugs meant “to [add] bacteria that integrate directly with the existing gut microbiome” are around the corner according to Nielsen.

Knowing your gut alone won’t cause weight loss, but it will improve an individual’s ability to achieve results. The uphill battle will a bit easier to fight with a body that is physically able to meet the dieter’s demands.

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