News / Science & Technology

    Gut Bacteria Might Contribute to Obesity

    Microbes May Contribute to Obesityi
    X
    September 06, 2013 7:55 PM
    New scientific evidence suggests what or how much we eat isn’t the only factor affecting our weight. The microbes living in our intestines matter, too.

    The results of this new study raise the possibility that probiotic bacteria may someday be added to diet and exercise to help fight obesity.

    In the study, cited in Science, researchers started with mice raised in sterile environments with no bacteria in their guts and gave them gut microbe samples taken from human twins, both identical and fraternal. The twins’ genes were similar, but one of each pair was obese, the other was not.

    Mice that received gut bacteria from the obese twin gained more weight than those inoculated with the thin twin microbes, and their metabolisms showed signs of trouble like those seen in obese humans.

    “That was a surprise,” said Ronald Evans, a molecular biologist at the Salk Institute.

    Evans was not involved in this research, but wrote a commentary on two related studies published last week in Nature.

    The studies showed people with less diverse collections of microbes in their guts are more likely to gain weight, and show the beginning signs of diabetes, than those with more microbial diversity.

    “The question [those studies] left on the table is, is the microbiome following the changes in our bodies,” he said, “or is it causing the changes in our bodies?”

    He says the latest study takes an important step toward saying the microbes cause the changes.

    But things really got interesting when the researchers put the obese-microbe mice and the lean-microbe mice in the same cage.

    “Co-housing resulted in the invasion of the lean microbes into the obese cage mate’s gut community, but not vice versa,” said Washington University scientist Jeffrey Gordon, who coordinated the research.

    When those lean microbes invaded and took over the guts of the obese-microbe mice, those mice gained less weight than mice that didn’t have a cage mate carrying lean microbes.

    But it didn’t happen the other way around: having a fat cage mate didn’t make the lean-microbe mice fat.

    But before anyone goes out to find a skinny roommate to help lose weight, consider that the mice swapped microbes through the unsavory habit of eating each other’s droppings.

    “The question is, can we do this in people,” said Evans, the Salk Institute researcher, “and can we actually get to the point where we have a culture that would be what you might call a good bacteria, or probiotic pill?”

    Gordon and his colleagues have cultured some of the microbes from the lean mice, but the cultures were less effective.

    And for now, at least, it’s not possible to take a magic probiotic pill and eat all the hamburgers you want. Mice that ate a high-fat, low-vegetable diet gained weight regardless of what microbes they carried, though lean-microbe mice gained less weight. And this time the lean microbes didn’t take over the guts of obese-microbe mice.

    “The answer appears to be diet, diet, diet,” Gordon said.

    Better diets improved the diversity of microbes in overweight people’s guts in the two studies in Nature on which Evans commented, and reduced the metabolic symptoms that can lead to disease.

    Except, unfortunately, in those people who already had diverse gut microbes. They didn’t get the same benefit from changing diets.

    “When we dine, we don’t dine alone,” Evans said. “We are dining with all of our microbial friends that we’re carrying around with us.”

    And there’s growing evidence that the 100 trillion or so microbes we carry on us and inside us - what scientists call our microbiome - are doing all sorts of things we never expected, from training our immune systems to regulating our moods.

    Good reasons to treat them right, Evans says.

    “You want to be nice to your microbiome. It could be our friend.”

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Debu-sen from: JPN
    September 06, 2013 9:42 PM
    It is interesting that microbes might cause obesity.
    We know that lean people gain less weight when they eat same amount of food as fat people do.
    We have understood that's caused by thier body characteristics and this report said that are microbes.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora