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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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  • Mass-Media Report (Score:5, Informative)

    by resistant ( 221968 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:37PM (#42371529) Homepage Journal
    In retrospect, I guess it couldn't hurt to mention at least one mass-media report [ft.com] that doesn't seem too excitable:

    Researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria linked with obesity, fed it to mice and compared their weight gain with rodents without the bacteria. The latter did not become obese despite being fed a high-fat diet and being prevented from exercising. The Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet designed to inhibit the bacterium linked to obesity and found that he lost 29 per cent of his body weight in 23 weeks. The patient was prevented from doing any exercise during the trial. Prof Zhao said such a loss in an obese patient using this diet was unprecedented. The patient also recovered from diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

    It will be fascinating to see what happens when other teams try to replicate these results with larger, more statistically significant groups than just one individual. ^^;

    • 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?

      • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:45PM (#42371565)

        Is it possible to safely eliminate just this one bacteria via a vaccine or antibiotic?

        Perhaps someone could post this bacteria's susceptibility to Alcohol. Preferably before New Years Eve.

        • Perhaps someone could post this bacteria's susceptibility to Alcohol. Preferably before New Years Eve.

          I've long speculated that gut bacteria plays a role in obesity, but based on my personal experience, alcohol merely exacerbates the problem.

      • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:58PM (#42371625) Homepage Journal

        Instestinal flora seems to have become something more scientists are looking into. The make up of the flora seems to have large number if influences. We may find even more surprises as more research happens.

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

          by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:18PM (#42371761) Homepage

          The human body contains trillions of microorganisms — outnumbering human cells by 10 to 1. Because of their small size, however, microorganisms make up only about 1 to 3 percent of the body's mass (in a 200-pound adult, that’s 2 to 6 pounds of bacteria), but play a vital role in human health.

          The NIH [nih.gov] is just starting to go there. It may well flip our understanding of how a number of disease processes unfold.

          Researchers found, for example, that nearly everyone routinely carries pathogens, microorganisms known to cause illnesses. In healthy individuals, however, pathogens cause no disease; they simply coexist with their host and the rest of the human microbiome, the collection of all microorganisms living in the human body. Researchers must now figure out why some pathogens turn deadly and under what conditions, likely revising current concepts of how microorganisms cause disease.

          Clearly the microbiota are biologically active - they produce, metabolize and secrete chemicals that interact with the human body. Not surprising that understanding that may help us understand the function and non function of ourselves.

          In a sense, this isn't news. We've always known than humans are full of shit.

      • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:14PM (#42371731)

        Many things which travel through the gut don't cause a problem because the Cilia protect the digestive tract wall. When Cilia get damaged as with Crohn's Disease, then infection or inflamation can occur.

        If the Enterobacter growth is enhanced by some items in the diet and suppressed by others that would not be surprising. If the Enterobacter or a product from that bacteria causes inflamation that causes the Pancreas to screw up the insulin production and regulation, that too would not be surprising.

        It is only recently that investigation has begun to accelerate on what the effects of different bacteria in the gut are doing and why. Great article with potential for good results.

      • Bacteria in the digestive tract has everything to do with how well you can process food. I rather thought everyone knew this already but I guess I was wrong.

        We also know that modified bacteria can do all manner of transformative magic from making alcohol to cleaning up oil spills. If it is indeed shown that a dietary supplement of bacteria or something like that could make it so that I can look and feel healthy like I was when I was in my 20s and 30s without all the diet and exercise I have to do, then br

          • Thanks. A bit of an eye-opener and a bit of a reminder of what I already understood in a more general sense.

            It is with this knowledge I have to wonder why, outside of a hospital, people are so freaking obsessed with hand sanitizers and stuff. It would seem obvious there is potential for harm in using it all the time. If it weren't for MRSA I wouldn't have added the hospital exception, but thanks hospitals for breeding that for us.... now we can have infections that lead to complications like death and am

      • They aren't all slender because they don't eat - they eat like horses. But its a lot less red meat (as in a LOT less), almost no dairy, and tons of rice and veggies.
        • almost no dairy

          That's not really a choice for them. Less than 10% of adult Chinese are lactose tolerant.

        • by spooje ( 582773 )
          I hate to burst your bubble but I lived in Beijing for four years and there were plenty of fatties all over the place.
      • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @06:58PM (#42371969)

        The bacteria plays a roll in the "feeling full" mechanism. It's a symbiotic parasite, usually doing no harm.

        It's not so simple to get rid of.

        Consider helicobacter pylori, the bacteria linked to stomach ulcerations. The discovery is that high acidity of the stomach causes this bacteria to produce a protein that neutralizes the stomach acidity: and creates ammonia as a byproduct. Your body regulates stomach acidity with the aid of a hormone gastrin. So in return, to raise acidity, more gastrin is produces and thus more acidity. This causes the same feedback loop problem seen by a foods with a high glycemic index, and overcompensation results in harm to the body.

        It's fairly widespread, and most of the time asymptomatic.

        Antibiotics show the pitiful development of our medicines. They're more or less equivalent to nuclear bombs in pill form. They'll ravage good and bad bacteria indiscriminately, and may even create mutant bacteria resistant to the drug.

        Really, it may just mean you need to make a dietary change to correct the problem. There's talk about the kinds of food we're eating that influence these bacteria to behave in certain ways, and about how diets low in calorie dense foods can correct this.

      • Here's an example, apparently the power-plant inside all our cells was once a separate living organism, and one day squillions of years ago one cell absorbed another without digesting it and through a magic more powerful than mere symbiosis Two Became One and the resulting biology was *significantly* more energy efficient.

        It's entirely plausible that it's simply a case of whatever bacteria processing our gut contents significantly more efficiently and producing something useful to us as their waste product
      • 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?

        Assuming this is true we probably acquired this bacteria hundreds of thousands of years ago because it helped us to build up fat reserves while we were still hunter-gatherers. There is nothing harmful about this bacteria it has been a useful symbiont that has been a key component in human survival for thousands of years, what is harmful is our modern lifestyle. What can we do about it? Exercising more and putting a stop to recreational eating would be a good start for most people. Knowing my fellow modern h

      • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        My guess is that like many other gut bacteria, it helps digestion. Without the bacteria, people become unable to digest certain nutrients. It sounds like a risky thing to try on humans, and could have some nasty longterm effects.

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

      by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:54PM (#42371599) Homepage Journal

      This has actually been studied quite extensively in the last few years, mostly by American researchers. They've been able to show how that mice fed samples of this bacterium will gain weight drastically. Basically, the bacteria process certain sources of food that we're bad at absorbing and make it easier for us to absorb them. It's believed that there's an immunological mutation (which is otherwise all but harmless) that lets them proliferate excessively in humans (defence against flagella, I think), so one can actually say that obesity is genetic, albeit indirectly so.

      But that all being said, while careful diet control is certainly effective for mitigating digestion-related problems, this study isn't a cure so much as a band-aid. I'm pretty sure anyone would lose weight and eliminate unwanted intestinal flora under the intake suggested.

      • Funny seeing the subject of gut bacteria in a /. forum.
        Just last week I was reading an article on the Mercola.com site, link here:

        Gut bacteria has much more to do with overall health in general that most people think.
        Weight loss being linked to having all the right bacteria in the gut is also a bonus

        • While what you're saying is true, many of the claims on that page are difficult or impossible to substantiate. The mention of fibromyalgia in particular is a good indicator that you're reading trash, since it has no concrete medical definition. Steer clear.
    • If you feed anyone a special diet they can lose weight. Also note, their diet included "certain Chinese herbal medicines." So sure it worked, it worked just fine. And the media that covered it fell for that hook line and sinker. Including slashdot.

      Now if these results came out of a real double blind study with controls and whatnot (like more than one patient?) this would be an interesting story. Now, it'll just generate diet spam.

    • Perhaps it's just the diet.

      But as an obese man, I for one welcome my new gut overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:38PM (#42371537)

    My own studies suggest that the Crunchwrap Supreme is responsible for obesity.

  • 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]

  • From the point of view of gut bacteria, we are just hosts serving their purposes as transportation and food suppliers. If they can get more food by releasing the right kind of chemical signals into our system, they will. This is a real life example of the way the fictional Goa'uld parasites treated their human hosts. But bacteria are not aliens, they are actually derived from the same ancient ancestors as us.

  • Eating less (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @05:58PM (#42371627) Journal
    I've found that the "eating less" diet really had significant efficacy in weight reduction.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sjames ( 1099 )

      Yes, much the same way shut the fuck up and hop cures a broken leg.

    • I can feel the joy of countless obese people knowing that they can now enjoy all the potatot chips and twinkies that they want to eat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I literally ate 10,000 calories a day and didn't gain an ounce. I drank a full 8 pack of 16 ounce pepsi bottles every day, ate a large bag of potato chips and a pound of cheese every day. This is on top of a large breakfast, lunch, afterschool dagwood sandwiches, huge supper with seconds at every meal. After dinner I would eat chips, more cheese, other snacks and popcorn loaded with butter. For breakfast I would eat a stack of 10 pancakes, a couple of boiled eggs, a 6 egg omlet, toast, sausage, bacon,

  • First giving the patient a dose of antibotics and then once most of the bacteria are dead then give them a fecal transplant that contain a better mixture of gut flora?
  • 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?
  • This study is not an isolated case regarding the issue of bacterium-mediated weight gain.

    There have been several studies which clearly indicate that there appears to be a case for "(at least some) people have excess weight due to 'which bacteria inhabit their gut' " or something approximating that.

    Yes folks, I said DUE TO, ie caused by the bacteria not the other way around (in at least one case, administering a certain bacteria caused not just scientifically significant but visibly large weight gain on the exact same diet, at least in rats).

    As yet there's no conclusive proof (ie several repeated tests independently verified) with hard science numbers (not to mention something of an explanation why/how this works) and, and no magic cure for fatness, but science is nowhere near laughing this off as 'mere crackpottery'.

    There's VERY OBVIOUSLY something going on here with certain bacteria and (at least) some overweight people, and scientists (all over the world, not "just someone I've never heard of in China") are turning up results from a variety of research projects (all with slightly different angles) all pointing in the direction of "this is starting to smell just like That Stomach Ulcer Thing".
  • A page about nutrition and what science has to say about it. All videos have links to the original research so that you can check that the good Dr isn't making shit up.
    There are a few videos about endotoxins and their effect. Feel free to have a look.
    http://nutritionfacts.org/index.php?s=endotoxins [nutritionfacts.org]

    The guys solution is probably not what most people have in mind.
    So far I haven't seen anyone well researched refute the guy.
    This was the video lecture that got me interested in what he had to say: http://nutrition [nutritionfacts.org]

  • Meanwhile, in related news, North Korea is conducting large scale human tests by feeding segments of their their population nothing but skinny mice.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.