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Specific Gut Bacteria May Account For Much Obesity 470

resistant writes "A limited study from China offers the tantalizing possibility that targeting specific gut bacteria in humans could significantly reduce the scope of an epidemic of obesity in Western countries: 'The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer's gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4kg of 174.8kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics.' As usual, sensationalist reports have been exaggerating the import of this very early investigation, and one wonders about that 'diet of whole grains.' Still, there could be meat in the idea of addressing pathogenic bacteria for the control of excessive weight gain. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a brave scientist insisted in the face of widespread ridicule that peptic ulcers in humans usually are caused by bacterial infections, not by acidic foods."
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Specific Gut Bacteria May Account For Much Obesity

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  • Re:Mass-Media Report (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:40PM (#42371547) Homepage

    If this turns out to have any truth to it, it raises two questions in my mind:

    1. Why? What's the link between this bacteria and weight gain?
    2. What can we do? Is it possible to safely eliminate just this one bacteria via a vaccine or antibiotic?

  • In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:43PM (#42371555)

    Scientists will soon discover that this gut bacteria is hugely successful at metabolizing fructose...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM [youtube.com]

  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:00PM (#42371641) Homepage

    Why is everyone here in the US hooked on the "false dillema" falicy?

    Why can't there be multiple issues? We do have the people that overeat, but there's more that a few people that have had problems with obesity and no one quite understands what the real cause is. There can always be multiple causes and multiple solutions (or not one single solution).

    It's more than just that. Controlled studies where volunteers spent a couple weeks locked in a research facility eating only the precisely measured meals given to them by researchers showed variations in weight gain/loss, even after accounting for muscle mass, overall health, and amount of exercise the volunteers engaged in. Some participants lost weight, some stayed relatively the same, and some gained weight.

    A persistently (and severely) restricted diet will eventually overcome all other factors and force you to lose weight, but it is obvious that some people absorb way more calories from the same meal than others. If the gut bacteria are breaking down certain complex carbohydrates, starches, etc that would otherwise go undigested, they could easily account for the difference.

    In fact, in a famine or food-poor situation, such bacteria would be evolutionarily selected for, as they would give the carriers a leg-up, allowing them to stay healthy and non-malnurished while their neighbors starved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:21PM (#42371773)

    Truth. There are dozens of potential pathways. My sister fell incredibly ill with a body-wide infection that near killed her in 2002. Like everyone else in my family she'd *always* been one of those people who could eat anything she liked and gain no weight. She's 5'10", was slim to the western celebrity ideal, and had done a little modeling. Her gut shut down and only after months of care could she come home - she left the hospital after four months with damaged kidneys and weighing more than when she went in, and over the next three years she continued to gain. Now she struggles to keep under 280lbs and she eats less than a quarter her previous diet. The rest of us eat freely and we're rake-thin - and by freely I mean we're all around the 5k calories a day mark while she's struggling to stay under 1500.

    What happened? Logically I can only guess she began using more of the food she ate towards stored energy, or lost the ability to expend energy as much, or a mix of both. Maybe my brother and other sisters waste a lot of our energy intake, maybe we expend a lot by the nature of our metabolisms. Maybe my sister's gut bacteria died and whatever organism pushed changes in dietary absorbtion up had a chance to flourish at the expense of a 'healthier' flora. Maybe damaged organs change the ratio she stores vs expends.

    What I'm getting at is "I thought it was over consumption of calories" like the gp suggested is a far too simplistic a suggestion - calories in vs calories out is obviously a valid equation at the root level, but calories put in the mouth do not equate to calories usable by the body and *that* does not equate to calories actually used by the body. I overconsume and I'm thin and metabolically healthy by all standards I've ever needed to be tested for. It's about as useful a suggestion for reasons of obesity as "I thought life was consumption of oxygen". Yeah, there's a link, but.... no.

  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:57PM (#42371963)
    So here's a correlation confound. Your gut bacteria is a big function of the kind of diet you have. This is advertised heavliy by the yogurt people: live-culture yogurts to help get you "regular", yucko. So people who eat more yogurt will have more acidophilus and lactobacilli. Those who eat meat (and particularly poorly cooked meat) will tend to have bacteria associated with those meats. Beef-eaters may have more e. coli (Jack-in-the-Box infected burgers, anyone), chicken-eaters may have more salmonella than others, and pork could mean many bacteria and even trichinosis (worms) or brain-monsters.
    So since your meat-eating habits may influence your bacteria, cutting down on meat will simultaneously improve your dietary intake and change your gut bacteria. This creates the confound. Is it the bacteria that created the bad health, or was the bacteria another symptom of the bad health that came along with the unhealthy diet?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2012 @08:26PM (#42372355)

    energy in=energy out, sure. But how much of the energy in gets lost to inefficiency?

    When I weigh less than 170, I can eat 3000 calories a day and not gain weight. If I manage to top 190, suddenly the same diet starts packing on more pounds and, worse, I can't get under 210 even reducing my calories to 1400.

    If need to double my daily excercise routine at the same time, the weight slowly comes off, but as soon as I get back under 190, suddenly I start dropping a pound a day.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @08:50PM (#42372481)

    Conservation of energy... In an isolated system. The body isn't an isolated system. You only consider the input to the system, you aren't considering the outputs.

    And outside of the physics angle, it's unhelpful to look at it that way. Whilst for sure over-eating is the fundamental cause, the implication that it's a matter of conscious willpower is wrong. The difference between well proportioned and fat people is not willpower. Mostly those well proportioned people aren't even trying. They are just lucky to have a body and/or subconscious mind that doesn't prompt them with hunger feelings as often and/or jumps in earlier to tell them they've eaten enough. It's a random physical attribute such as the colour of ones hair, not something to be proud or ashamed of.

    Maybe this research will better explain this difference, and maybe it won't. But the difference is there.

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @11:05PM (#42372951)

    I cut down carbs and I feel like SHIT. Within a week or 2 I'm an old man that needs a nap at lunchtime, has headaches etc.

    Yes, this is not easy, you need some time to get used to this new diet, but time will come where you will be able to spend a day without much carbs Your body just need to learn again how to burn fat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:03AM (#42374991)

    Its not that simple. Cravings are not just "your fault". Its a complex combination of biological processes and hormone signaling caused by doing things like eating too much sugar in your diet. I'm not saying people aren't at fault. I'm saying that they are influenced by sugar (specifically fructose) and its been scientifically proven. You can change though by just cutting the sugar/fructose and adding more probiotics to your diet.

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