Humans love to classify things (at least I learned something from those college course readers on Derrida and Descartes), and the world of health and dieting is no exception: A recent study suggesting that there are three “enterotypes” is a prime example of our need to categorize and name things in order to understand ourselves and, of course, to diet. If you’re not familiar with enterotypes, don’t worry: I think you’ll be well-acquainted quite soon. Just like the blood type, body type, and even GenoType diets in the past, soon we could be choosing our food based on the type of bacteria we have our gut. But unlike most weight loss marketing ploys, this one might not be total B.S.
I tend to be of the belief that diets based on “types” are mostly designed to soothe the human psyche; not to accommodate real biological differences. Many of us are smart enough to know that our bodies are unique, and there’s probably not a single way to eat that can result in optimal wellness (and weight) for all. So we avoid the one-size-fits-all approach, instead opting for diets that claim to take our individuality into account. Sounds good, but in reality, these are often over-complicated plans that don’t necessarily work better than any other program or diet.
But a recent study published in Nature suggests a new way to organize what everyone should eat: Researchers suspect that there are three “enterotypes” based on the kinds of bacteria you carry in your gut. We’ve already started buying foods and supplements loaded with “probiotics” to improve digestion and overall health, but these scientists are suggesting that some people are prone to carry more or less of various “types” of microbacteria, suggesting that we might do good to compensate for the types that we’re missing with, you guessed it, our diet and supplements.
Not everyone buys that there are definite types — one researcher, who authored a separate study on gut microbes in mice, said the study was too preliminary to provide solid data. And Mike Bush, the vice president of business development for a probiotics supplier, also commented that the “gut microbiota is so complex” that it’s unlikely they’ve “identified but a fraction” of the species therein. He also added that if you make the “types” broad enough, it’s possible to fit everyone into at least one, suggesting that they might not be particularly helpful in identifying specific dietary needs.
But when was the last time anyone waited for 100% foolproof research to create a new diet? My guess is that we’ll be seeing an enterotype diet pretty soon, but I wouldn’t necessarily throw away the advice. Although the categories might be a little sketchy, plenty of doctors and studies indicate that gut bacteria make a big difference in our digestion and overall health. And yes, they can even affect our weight: Gut bacteria aid in digestion, which impacts metabolism, which impacts weight. In fact, you don’t need a new diet to tell you: Take a probiotic supplement, and try to eat more raw fruits and vegetables to get more enzymes and live cultures in your belly. Your body will thank you, inside and out.