The microbes living in our guts may influence how prone we are to obesity, a finding that may have implications for the treatment of this worldwide epidemic.
Our gastrointestinal tracts house two dominant groups of beneficial bacteria, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes, which help us to break down otherwise indigestible foods. The relative proportion of Bacteroidetes is decreased in obese compared with lean people, Jeffrey I. Gordon and colleagues report in a Brief Communication in Nature. And the proportion increases as weight is lost on low calorie diets.
The finding suggests that obesity has a microbial component, and an accompanying paper by the collaborating authors suggests a possible explanation. This shows that gut microbes in obese mice are better at harvesting calories from food than those found in their lean littermates. And the effect is transmissible - when 'obese microbes' are transplanted into germ-free mice their total body fat increases more than when 'lean microbes' are transplanted.
Jeffrey I. Gordon (Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA)
Randy J. Seeley (University of Cincinnati, OH, USA) N&V author
(C) Nature press release.
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