The Influence of Gut Bacteria on Weight Gain and Obesity

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • If I were to ask what constitutes the essence of who you are, you might give answers such as personality, humor or intelligence. Perhaps beauty would be your choice, or maybe you believe the essence of who you are is your compassion. I doubt you would tap into microbiology for an answer but why would you?

    As humans we are composed of human cells, and one could argue that this stew is the core of who we are. Then again, for shear number, bacterial cells outnumber human cells ten to one. I’m quite sure that very few among you would consider their essence to be bacteria. It's too gooey!

    Be that as it may, the bacteria we carry could fill a half-gallon jug and they are quite important. For instance, the hundred trillion bacteria that line the large intestine and consists of hundreds of separate species are an engine for digestion. Gut bacteria break down food into useful and nutritious components. 

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    Gut bacteria also seems to be influential in matters of weight gain or obesity.

    Gut Bacteria and Weight Gain
    Gut bacteria begin filling the digestive tract at birth and are collected from a number of different sources. The gut bacteria we collects children can remain with us for decades although the makeup of the bacteria is subject to change if people lose weight. People who are overweight have different types and different amounts of gut bacteria than do lean people.

    In order to determine what influence gut bacteria may have on weight gain, a Washington University graduate student took gut bacteria from four sets of twins. One twin was obese and the other was normal weight. One set of twins was identical to rule out any inherited cause for differences in weight. Human microbes were then transplanted into the intestines of mice that had been raised germ free.

    The result was that the mice who received gut bacteria from the obese human sibling gained more weight and experienced unhealthy changes in their metabolisms.

    Mice that were given gut bacteria from the obese human sibling were caged along with mice who received bacteria from the normal weight sibling. Whereas mice have the habit of eating the feces of one another, they frequently exchange intestinal bacteria.

    It was discovered that when the bacteria from the lean mice was ingested by the obese mice, the obese mice showed improvement in weight and metabolism. The lean mice were not affected by the bacterial exchange.

    The hope now is that the findings will help to narrow down which bacteria might affect the amount of energy people absorb from food. An additional hope is that probiotics can eventually be manufactured that will help people maintain an appropriate weight. 

    Some spas have already begun to offer fecal transplants as a method for weight loss. However the possibility for someone becoming ill from such a transplant has caused the Food and Drug Administration to intervene and regulate the practice.  


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Published On: January 19, 2014