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Who has never counted calories when embarking on a slimming diet? But according to an American study, our calculations may turn out to be wrong because not all calories have the same value, depending on the type of food you eat.

For years, it was believed that it was enough to watch (and reduce) your daily caloric intake to hope to lose weight. But researchers from Florida, in the United States, are shaking up this certainty, saying that all calories are not equal and that the calories of ultra-processed foods count more than those of foods rich in fiber.

On the same subject

high fiber foods

A new calculation that takes into account the intestinal microbiome

In a study just published in the journal Nature communications, researchers explain that processed foods are absorbed more quickly in the gut, which means more calories for the body and fewer for the gut microbiome, located in the gut. end of the digestive tract.

But when we eat high fiber foods, they are not absorbed as quickly. So they make their way all the way to the large intestine, where the billions of bacteria that make up the gut microbiome absorb them. It is therefore less calories for the body.

“In a classic, low-fiber Western diet, almost all the energy goes back to us and very little goes to the gut bacteria. We don’t give the microbiome any opportunity to use and burn the calories we ingest because we’re absorbing them. all” explains Karen Corbin, lead author of the study.

The same number of calories ingested but not the same number of calories burned

For this study, researchers recruited 17 healthy adults and compared what happened when they were fed a high-fiber diet versus a diet of highly processed foods. The high-fiber diet consisted of foods like oats, beans, lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, quinoa, and whole grains, as well as oilseeds and fruits and vegetables. The average American’s so-called “Western” diet consisted of processed grains, white bread, ground beef, cheese, cookies, deli meats and other processed meats, and sugary snacks and fruit juices.

The researchers provided the participants with all of their meals and had them follow this diet for 22 days. All received the same amount of calories and similar amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates. They then spent 6 days in a metabolic chamber to allow scientists to determine exactly how many calories the participants burned and how many bacteria and calories were present in their stool.

You lose more weight with a high fiber diet

Scientists have thus discovered that we absorbed significantly fewer calories with the high-fiber diet compared to the processed diet. On average, study participants lost 217 calories per day on the high-fiber diet, which is 116 calories more than on the processed diet. The participants also lost slightly more weight and body fat on the high-fiber diet.

Source : Host-diet-gut microbiome interactions influence human energy balance: a randomized clinical trialNature communications, June 2023

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