I have been on a diet for 2 weeks now and its enough to make anyone grumpy. The fat will not fall off no matter how much food I do not eat. Weekends I do not eat cooked food at all but the fat remains stubbornly in its place.


It’s a pity that humans can’t control what their stomachs or small intestines absorb. The fashionable people are all going for bariatric surgery. This cut out or bypasses parts of the stomach or small intestine. The theory is that less intestines means fewer calories absorbed.


Animals are much more evolved. It is not surgery but muscles that trigger off how much the intestine absorbs and the cues are given by season, intended action and even certain foods; which means that animals have a thinking intestine – unlike our own sluggish coils.


Some animals have intestines that perform amazing tricks. They expand and contract at will. This means that the body can absorb varying quantities of calories from the same food depending on what the animal needs. When they are long and stretched out they have more cells exposed to the food passing over them and so more nutrients can be extracted. When they shrink, the food passes by untouched.


For instance, when some birds have to migrate, their intestines increase by 25%, quickly fattening them up for the long journey ahead. As soon as the ideal weight is reached, the intestines shrink down. The same thing happens in fish, frogs, squirrels and mice. Pythons shrink their intestines dramatically and go for months without a meal. Then when the prey is caught they increase dramatically in size, responding to the immediate need.


When a person dies the muscles relax and the intestines become 50% longer. Perhaps when we are alive and lead sedentary lives, the muscles of the intestine simply give way and the intestine grows longer and absorbs more food. You know that certain things make you put on weight – some drugs, hormones and even stress – even when you are not eating more. Maybe these make the intestine stretch out. My intestines, I am sure, have reached 100 feet inside me because even when I eat nothing and exercise, not an inch drops off.


However, there is another world within us, peopled by strange and wondrous creatures which scientists are just beginning to know. Every human body has planets of creatures within them – three legged viruses and coloured fungi, worms and tailed bacteria, millions of these creatures swarm inside our intestines, feeding and breeding. In fact scientists say that our skin, mouth, teeth and all our organs are so full of tiny creatures that only one in ten cells may actually be human. You are not one person but a super-organism made of many many species.




Microbiologists are just beginning to research on what each one of these residents in our bodies do. Many of them help break down food so that it can be digested and the nutrients absorbed.


It turns out that there are two dominant groups of bacteria: Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. And scientists have discovered that fat people have more Firmicutes in their intestines. Thin people have more Bacteroidetes. If fat people lose weight over time in a planned fashion the Firmicutes become less than the Bacteroidetes.


When researchers looked at mice they found the same thing. They also found that the faeces of fat mice had less calories in it than the faeces of thin mice. Which led them to believe that Firmicutes are much better at extracting calories from food than Bacteroidetes. That means that when I eat an apple, the thriving Firmicute gang inside me extracts the full hundred calories from it. But when my sister (who is impossibly thin) eats an apple, the Bacteroidetes only take out 50 calories from it.


So it’s not just more food and less exercise that drives the increase in weight. It is the animals within us. Now, if someone is reading this and wants to make a lot of money, the way to do it is to make a commercial infusion of either Firmicutes or Bacteroidetes that people can buy and eat and change the balance of their intestinal bacteria. What a simple way to become thinner or fatter.


What we are just beginning to learn, animals – or, at least, their bodies which are much more evolved than ours – already know. Horses, turtles, apes - their nutrition and digestion simply does not function unless the microorganisms (bacteria) in their bodies are not balanced properly. So they have to eat fresh leafy greens and partly fermented food simply to feed the animals in their gut. Since humans are basically vegetarian in the make up of their bodies, the vegetables we eat probably nourish the correct balance of bacteria in our bodies. All other food simply unbalances the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes.


Antibiotics don’t just kill disease bearing bugs, they also decimate beneficial gut bacteria. In all animal factories - poultry farms, piggeries, rabbit farms etc – antibiotics are given because animals grow fatter with less food. Now you can see the relation – all the bacteria is so unbalanced in the animal’s body that it grows fatter and weighs more when it is killed. But when you eat, all that unbalanced bacteria in its body goes into yours.


Is obesity infectious? Nutrition scientists have found that it is: that animals, like chickens, horses, lions and rats, become obese when infected with any one of seven viruses. Which means that weight gain can be spread by microscopic animals. And this is far more likely to happen when you eat animals that have had all the good bacteria taken out of them by greedy animal factory owners.


Back to my diet while dreaming of armies of Bacteroidetes led by my knight in shining armour defeating the villainous Firmicutes . Thank you, book Zoobiquity, for this amazing information.


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


Pl. add: To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*