There can be up to a thousand different types of bacteria and other micro-organisms in our digestive systems, many of which play some part in metabolizing food and nutrients.
But some of us have a lower diversity of bacteria than others, and, as a result, fewer amino acids are produced when we follow a diet-and this means we can lose weight more easily than people with a higher diversity.
Researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology made the discovery when they measured the variety of gut bacteria of a group of overweight volunteers before putting them all on the same diet.
Although all the participants lost some weight, some lost more than others-and it was those with a lower diversity of bacteria who lost the most.
But it's not just weight that is influenced by the diversity of gut bacteria, there could also be a connection with diseases such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Probiotics are the best way of improving the gut microbiome, or environment, right now, but the researchers say a new generation of the products is needed, and ones that can add bacteria that integrate with the microbiome and have a lasting effect.
(Source: Cell Metabolism, 2015; 22: 320)