Folks of a certain age may recall the days when grapefruit played a big role in any weight loss diet. If you were trying to lose weight, chances were your shopping list including this simple citrus fruit.
Over the years this produce aisle staple lost a bit of its clout as other new, sexier, superfoods got all the attention. But it turns out the humble grapefruit may be getting the attention it deserves as it rises to the top as a weight loss hero.
But not exactly for the reason you might imagine. More on that in a moment.
Stop blaming yourself for dieting failures
If you’ve ever lost weight only to regain it (and perhaps even a little extra to boot) it’s time to stop beating yourself up about it. A growing pile of research has revealed that those of us that have trouble keeping weight off after we lose it—so-called yo-yo dieters—may be the unwitting victims of metabolism changes that set us up for failure.
In other words, it’s not your imagination. Even if you continue to work hard at maintaining your new healthier eating habits your body could be working against you. Because unlike your thin friend who has never been an ounce overweight, your body simply doesn’t burn as many calories.
But now an exciting new animal study conducted at Weizmann Institute of Science may have uncovered the secret behind this metabolism stumbling block and, as a result, a potential solution.1 It turns out that your gut bugs, or what scientists call your gut microbiome, might be the reason you pack on the pounds after dieting.
According to the researchers after you lose weight your body’s systems all return to normal very quickly except for one. Your gut microbiome remains out of whack for about six months.
“Chubby” gut bugs could be making you fat
According to head researcher Dr. Eran Elinav it’s almost as if your gut bugs retain a “memory” of your having been overweight. And as a result you regain weight at a faster pace.
In fact, when researchers used drugs to wipe out the old “chubby” bugs, the yo-yo effect disappeared. And mice who were implanted with “chubby” bugs gained weight far faster than mice that were implanted with gut bugs from mice who had never been overweight.
Now you and I certainly aren’t going to take massive amounts of antibiotics, which would destroy the good bacteria in our bellies right along with the ones that are causing us to regain weight. And getting an implant of someone else’s gut microbiome isn’t an option either.
But, lucky for us, researchers were able to identify two molecules that the “chubby” bugs appear to deplete in yo-yo dieters. These fat-burning flavonoids, which we obtain through our food, are much lower in yo-yo dieters than in their always thin peers.
Nutrient duo could be key to keeping weight off
When they fed the two compounds to mice after they had lost weight, their flavonoid levels bounced back and their metabolism reacted normally. Their bodies burned through calories as if they had never been overweight, even when they were fed a high calorie diet.
More research needs to be done to see how the “chubby” gut bugs react to flavonoid supplements in humans. But there’s no need to wait around for those results because it turns out that old dieting favorite, grapefruit, is rich in both of the flavonoids that are affected.
Which means simply making grapefruit a part of your diet, especially after losing weight, could be the key to keeping the weight off forever. Just be sure to check in with your doctor of pharmacist before you do, since grapefruit can interact with certain drugs. Other foods that are rich in the two compounds are tangelos, and kumquats.
1. “Persistent microbiome alterations modulate the rate of post-dieting weight regain,” Nature, 540, 544–551, (22 December 2016)
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