When we think of the health impact of a sugary diet, we’re most likely to consider health issues like diabetes, heart disease and of course weight gain and obesity. The last thing we’d ever consider is that there is a type of sugar that can actually help with weight loss, but that’s the result of a new study.
According to research published in the medical journal Cell Reports, a type of natural sugar called mannose may actually help people lose weight. Few people have even heard of mannose and fewer still are reaping its weight loss benefits, but the natural sugar has been found to improve metabolism and gut microbiome health, and even prevent diet-related obesity.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A MICROBIOME?
Everyone has a collection of ecosystems in various parts of his or her body. We have ecosystems in our intestines, in our mouth, on our tongue, on our teeth, on the front of our knees, on the back of our knees, on our nose, on our wrists, on our left hand, on our right hand, and on and on. You get the picture. Scientists refer to the microbiome as the communities of microorganisms that inhabit your skin, mouth, gut and other parts of your body. Like a fingerprint, every person has a different microbiome.
As part of the study, researchers divided animals into groups, eating either a normal or high fat diet, with or without mannose. By the end of the study they found that those that ate mannose as part of their diet were leaner, had less fat in their livers and were fitter than the animals that did not ingest mannose as part of their diet. They also found that those that ate the mannose had an intestinal microbial composition that more closely resembled lean animals than the animals that did not ingest mannose. When the animals stopped eating mannose they regained weight and their gut bacteria returned to pre-mannose conditions.
While this type of research is in its infancy and certainly more studies are needed, the scientists hope that the results will help improve the treatment of obesity and liver disease.
WHAT IS MANNOSE?
Sometimes called d-mannose, mannose is a simple sugar primarily found in fruit like apples, oranges and peaches. It is also found in some berries like cranberries and blueberries. It also goes by the names d-manosa, carubinose and seminose, but they are all the same forms of sugar.
Early studies demonstrate that the sugar may also be helpful for the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs) by preventing bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. It also appears to increase some of the beneficial bacteria in the intestines, suggesting it may have promise for gut health, but more research is needed in this area.
Mannose is also available in supplement form. Use caution if you are diabetic, have high blood sugar levels, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Follow package instructions for the product you choose and avoid excessive doses as they may be linked to kidney damage. If you supplement with mannose, you may experience loose bowels or bloating as changes in your gut microbiome occur.