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Your Gut Microbia May Make You Eat Sweets


I hoped this blog title would catch your interest. It’s big news, really big news that your gut microbia might be what’s making you eat the whole bag of Oreos and not just one, or an entire bar of Godiva chocolate rather than two tiny squares. Of course, the studies on sweets’ bingeing and microbia is only being done on mice, not people. But what if their conclusions are correct and something physiological rather than a moral failing has been causing you to binge on sweets? 

Before I give you the science behind this theory, let me share my fear with you: that even if you’re given proof that your sweets’ bingeing or part of it may be caused by your gut microbia, you’ll still cling to the idea that it’s your fault that you overdo with food. You’ll still blame yourself for lack of self-discipline, no willpower or poor self-care. Why? Because you’re so used to blaming yourself for your dysfunctional eating that it might be hard for some of you to give up self-reproach.

Gut Microbes Influence Binge-Eating of Sweet Treats - Neuroscience News tells us that, a “new Cal Tech study shows that the absence of certain gut bacteria causes mice to binge eat palatable foods: Mice with microbiotas disrupted by oral antibiotics consumed 50% more sugar pellets over two hours than mice with gut bacteria. When their microbiotas were restored through fecal transplants, the mice returned to normal feeding behavior.

Further, not all bacteria in the gut are able to suppress hedonic feeding, but rather specific species appear to alter the behavior. Bingeing only applies to palatable foods; mice with or without gut microbiota both still eat the same amount of their regular diet.” Speaking about the two groups of mice (one treated to change mice microbia and the other untreated), “the real difference was in how much palatable, or dessert-like, food the mice consumed. When presented with high-sucrose pellets, the antibiotic-treated mice ate 50% more pellets over two hours and ate in longer bursts than their healthy mouse counterparts.”

We may not know the answer to whether human microbiotas impact our eating of sweets for quite a while. In the meantime, while remaining accountable for your actions, if you overeat sweets, you might want to come down less hard on yourself and consider that part of your craving to binge could be due to biology. Hopefully, that possibility will help you be more compassionate to yourself. Being kinder might not change the way you eat, but it will certainly change how you feel about what and how you eat.