As much of the country continues to battle obesity, scientists are looking at the causes. Most of them – such as diet, lifestyle, and genes – are expected. But one element that hasn’t been considered in the past is beginning to appear: gut bacteria. Gut bacteria could be making us fat and thin, depending on which kind we carry.
From birth, the types of bacteria in our gut may determine whether we are fat or thin. In addition to aiding in digestion, gut bacteria may also be responsible for altering the way we store fat, how we balance levels of glucose in the blood, and how we respond to the hormones that make us feel hungry or full. Depending on the types of bacteria in our gut, we may be a certain body type from birth.
As scientists determine which gut bacteria are beneficial for weight control, they may be able to use the information to control weight from an early age, beginning with baby formulas and food. “By designing food from the inside out,” Jeffrey Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis tells “Scientific American” that we may be able to control gut bacteria and the likelihood of becoming obese.
Did you know that microorganisms actually outnumber your body’s own cells? The largest communities live in your intestinal tract and mouth, but microbes can also be found in your skin and genitals. You begin to acquire bacteria at birth, first from your mother and then from different environments throughout your life. The types and amounts of microbes vary from person to person depending on their experiences and surroundings.
The first hint that microbes play a role in a person’s weight came from studying identical twins who were both thin or both obese. Twins who were both thin had a significantly greater diverse population of bacteria. By contrast, obese people had nutrients but fewer species of bacteria.
To demonstrate the effect that bacteria has on obesity, Gordon performed a series of experiments on mice. By transferring bacteria from thin mice to obese mice, the obese mice lost weight and developed a healthy weight. Therefore, Gordon believes that is possible to prevent the development of obesity through bacteria.
Obese people lack bacterial diversity; and some of the bacteria they lack may also be responsible for providing other job functions, like the development of diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes. Other bacteria may be responsible for helping to regulate hormones that help with appetite control.
Diet plays a major role in which bacteria grow in your stomach. A healthy diet tends to encourage diversity and bacteria to flourish. A diet high in processed foods seems to eliminate and slow the growth of bacteria.
While scientists say just taking probiotics is only a piece of getting healthy bacteria to flourish, it is a start. The other part is your diet. By eating foods that encourage healthy bacteria to bloom and flourish, you can better control your weight and the risk of developing serious health conditions.