Gut bacteria could be behind why some 'identical' people are fatter than others
Findings of research on mice could mean re-colonising obese people's guts with healthy, lean-triggering bacteria could help them lose weight
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 05 September 2013
Bacteria growing naturally in the human gut could be playing a decisive role in determining whether someone becomes overweight or obese according to a remarkable study involving laboratory mice fed with bacterial gut “fauna” from fat and thin people.
The results lend further weight to earlier studies showing that gut bacteria, which are more numerous than the cells of the human body, probably play a significant role in raising or lowering the risk of someone putting on weight.
In the latest study scientists isolated gut bacteria from identical and non-identical twins, where one sibling was obese and the other was lean, and found that the bacteria caused mice to become lean or overweight depending on whether they received the bacteria from the lean or obese twin respectively.
The scientists also found which bacterial species are involved. The microbial group known as the Bacteroides, for example, was more prevalent in lean individuals and was also found to play a protective role against fat accumulation in mice fed on certain diets.
The mice in the study were specially bred “germ-free” animals lacking their own microbial gut fauna. When fed a standard diet with the added microbes from the human gut, those receiving bacteria from obese individuals gained more fat than mice fed on bacteria from lean individuals, said Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University School of Medicine.
“This wasn't attributable to differences in the amount of food they consumed, so there was something in the microbiota that was able to transmit this trait. Our question became: What were the components responsible?” Dr Gordon said.
The transplanted gut microbes from humans led to metabolic changes in the mice that caused them to build up fat tissue in their bodies, which is also the key feature seen in people who are overweight or obese.
When the two sets of mice were put together in the same cage, the obese mice became lean. This indicated that they had shared their microbial fauna – mice eat each other’s droppings – and that the “lean” bacteria were winning out in the battle to colonise the guts of the “obese” mice, Dr Gordon said.
This suggests that re-colonising the gut of obese people with healthy, lean-triggering bacteria may help them to lose weight, provided they also follow other advice on diet and exercise, he said.
“In the future, the nutritional value and the effects of food will involve significant consideration of our microbiota – and developing healthy, nutritious foods will be done from the inside-out, not just the outside-in,” he added.
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...
£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...