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Science

Study: Mice Gain Weight In Cold Temperatures Due To Gut Changes (economist.com) 132

Beeftopia writes with the results of a study described in The Economist: Mice were separated into two groups, one temperature maintained at 6C, the other at 22C. Researchers expected the cold mice to lose weight as they burned stored fat to stay warm. And for the first few days they did. But after five to ten days, in spite of their rations not increasing, the cold mice begain to put on weight. When scientists examined the gut microbiome of the previously identical mice, they found they were radically different. Additionally, the intestine had grown villi 50% larger than those of the warm temperature mice. Finally, after transplanting the gut microflora into a new batch of aseptic mice kept at warm temperatures, those mice showed the increased insulin sensitivity, cold tolerance, and villi length of the cold mice.
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Study: Mice Gain Weight In Cold Temperatures Due To Gut Changes

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  • by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:26PM (#51546523) Homepage

    Scratching my head here. What's the conclusion to be drawn, from these experiments? That if we don't want to gain weight, we should all move to Florida?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think the takeaway points are that the body adjusts to the increased fat burn through multiple mechanisms. This includes the gut being supportive of different bacteria and changes in the structure of the small intestine. It's not too much unlike greatly cutting back on calories. If you do it once in awhile, you'll lose weight. But if you do it for a long period of time, the body adapts by slowing your metabolism. The result is when you increase caloric intake, you are likely to gain the weight back and th

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        I think the takeaway points are that the body adjusts to the increased fat burn through multiple mechanisms...

        Exactly, adaptation, evolution, mutations. Next subject please!

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Actually yes. Not Florida specifically, but having extra body fat offers no biological advantage in a warm environment compared to a cold environment, all other things being equal.

      On the flip side, extra body fat can be advantageous in cold climates. The person with extra body fat may survive more comfortably in lower temperatures, or it might be the difference between living and dying if it's sufficiently cold.
      • by lpevey ( 115393 )

        Actually yes. Not Florida specifically, but having extra body fat offers no biological advantage in a warm environment compared to a cold environment, all other things being equal.

        BS, we all know weight gain is a simple matter of calories in versus calories out. /sarcasm

        Seriously, I know enough people who have weight struggles and literally try to starve themselves trying to lose weight. It's painful for me to watch. Meanwhile, I and others eat pretty much whatever we want, and while I'm not rail thin, I've never had a problem maintaining a healthy weight. It annoys me when sanctimonious people go on their "why don't they just eat better and exercise" rant. Maybe more studies lik

        • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @12:57AM (#51546893) Homepage Journal
          But it is a simple matter of calories in/out. The study even says so. They looked at the calorific value left in the faeces.
        • It's a commonly stated myth that when they liberated Auschwitz there weren't any fatties.

          Of course there were - the guards.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      That if we don't want to gain weight, we should all move to Florida?

      Uh, no. Southern Florida is supposed to be underwater in the next half-century.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Uh, no. Southern Florida is supposed to be underwater in the next half-century.

        Well that sure explains all those millionaires buying up property in Florida, who knew they'd be buying into a worthless investment.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          [...] who knew they'd be buying into a worthless investment.

          A smart speculator would look at the scientific data for rising water levels and buy worthless properties that will eventually become new water front properties.

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            A smart speculator would look at the scientific data for rising water levels and buy worthless properties that will eventually become new water front properties.

            Which explains all of those ocean front purchases right? You know, like what happened along the US east coast in the 1980's and 90's when the "sea level will be 20ft higher" by 1990 and 2000'.

            • You know, like what happened along the US east coast in the 1980's and 90's when the "sea level will be 20ft higher" by 1990 and 2000'.

              No, I don't know any scientific data from the 1980's and 90's that predicted a 2 ft/year sea level rise. Please add your references.

              • by creimer ( 824291 )

                No, I don't know any scientific data from the 1980's and 90's that predicted a 2 ft/year sea level rise. Please add your references.

                Al Gore made a comment that sea levels would rise 20 feet in his 2006 movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," that the global warming critics like to hype to death. Any comment by Al Gore should be taken with a hefty amount of sea salt.

                Some of the most memorable images from Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, are the graphics that show how rising ocean levels will dramatically alter our planet's coastlines. As Greenland's ice sheets collapse, Gore predicts that our shores will be flooded and sea-bordering cities will sink beneath the water leaving millions of people homeless. His narration tells the audience that, due to global warming, melting ice could release enough water to cause at 20-foot rise in sea level "in the near future."

                http://scienceline.org/2008/12/ask-rettner-sea-level-rise-al-gore-an-inconvenient-truth/ [scienceline.org]

                • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

                  Al Gore made a comment that sea levels would rise 20 feet in his 2006 movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," that the global warming critics like to hype to death. Any comment by Al Gore should be taken with a hefty amount of sea salt.

                  Just like the pro-agg like to make the claims "warmest weather since record keeping." Which in countries like Canada means 1970...most recent example? "Warmest weather in Waterloo, Ontario...since records started in 1967..." [imgur.com]

            • by creimer ( 824291 )

              You know, like what happened along the US east coast in the 1980's and 90's when the "sea level will be 20ft higher" by 1990 and 2000'.

              As we say on the West Coast, "What are you smoking and where can I get some?"

              • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

                As we say on the West Coast, "What are you smoking and where can I get some?"

                Why not ask the environmentalists that were parroting it in the 80's and 90's. David Suzuki and Al Gore are my favorites, especially since the media likes to claim that they're scientists.

        • It's not worthless if you can sell the property to a bigger fool.
      • That's OK.
        Swimming burns lots of calories.
    • I'm drawing two conclusions from this:

      1) Exposing yourself to cold doesn't seem to be a viable weight loss strategy. This actually makes sense since the best response to be being cold is adding insulation, either way trying to lose weight by making yourself cold is apparently a thing [wired.com].

      2) Probiotics may be overrated. Its true they're really critical to regulating body weight but it looks like the body has already figured that out. As much as you're eating yogurt to push the culture one way your body may be tr

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @12:50AM (#51546867) Journal

      What's the conclusion to be drawn, from these experiments? That if we don't want to gain weight, we should all move to Florida?

      How about: "The mouse gut bacteria that flourish in cold weather conditions signal the mouse to take more nutrition from the gut. They're throwing more of their own potential food supply to the mouse than the summer-time bugs, in order to keep their house intact and warm (rather than starved to death) over the winter months."

      Yet another instance of life forms involved in a symbiosis evolving better mutual-survival strategies.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      The conclusion is, burning more calories increases weight. All the "it's thermodynamics" assholes are wrong.
      • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
        Yes, it's thermodynamics. The "warm-temperature" mice simply don't burn food as completely as the "cold-temperature" mice. If you restrict calorie intake further then they WILL lose weight.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Nope. If you further reduce their caloric intake, their body will go into a starvation mode that will cause even more weight gain.

          Thermodynamics is never violated, but there isn't a practical way to measure the calories out of a person. Metabolic rates are different enough, and waste isn't easily measured.

          This experiment proved that if you burn more calories, you gain weight. Others have proven that if you eat fewer calories, you gain weight. So your statement has been proven false many times.
          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            You left out "except at the extreme ends of the distribution".

            It's true that I once went on a week long water & vitamin pill fast and gained weight. But I doubt this would have happened if it had been a month long fast. Really.

            And if you'll notice US citizens tend to be heavier and fatter than starving Ethiopians. (I'm not sure that the famine is still happening there, and I acknowledge that it was largely caused by local politics, but it did happen, and the Ethiopians involved were mainly not involve

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Yes, if you hop in an oven at 600F, you'll burn lots of calories, and come out much lighter. But for the large middle section, where 99% of the population lives, metabolism and other poorly understood mechanisms dominate over the limits imposed by thermodynamics.
          • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
            BS. If you don't feed them enough recoverable calories the mice WILL lose dry weight. There's no way around thermodynamics.

            And no, you can't gain weight by fasting on water and pills, except by retaining fluid.
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Cutting calories 10% can result in gaining weight. Increasing calories burned by 10% can result in gaining weight. Your understanding of thermodynamics is flawed.
              • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
                Sure. If you're eating 5000 calories a day (which is far, far more than required) then cutting calorie intake by 10% might cause you to gain weight. But if you cut the intake to 1000 calories - you WILL lose weight (assuming you're about an average size). No way around it.
      • Thermodynamics is just a theory?
        Of course there is more, but thermodynamics surely is valid.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Gravity is just a theory.

          Thermodynamics is never violated, but the "common sense" interpretation of it is false. That's not a thermodynamics violation, but a logic fail by everyone who uses a simple rule they don't even understand to try to understand a complex issue. Fewer calories drops a body into "starvation mode", and you gain weight by eating less (a violation of "thermodynamics" as understood by the idiots). And you gain weight by burning more calories (another violation from the "thermodynamics"
    • that's the take away. In other words, being fat doesn't just mean you're a lazy slob. Stuff like this has enormous social implications for the United States, where we kinda have a culture of "blame the victim" in the guise of personal responsibility. Basically more and more things we blame on lose morals we're finding physical causes of. For the rest of the world this might not be such a big deal, but here in the States this might have a huge impact on our politics.
      • Yes, you are lazy slob who stuffs your face way too much. The fact that not 100% of calories in the food is actually used is nothing new. You just need to take your 'efficiency rate' into account, then start moving more and stuffing your face less until intake falls below expenditure. Sorry, gut bacteria is not universal 'it is not my fault, so gimme that burger and fries' card.
    • You can take your mice, wrap them up in duct tape, and shove them somewhere, which will give you an auto-erotic adventure.

      Why don't these scientists study some humans who live in cold places? I think it would be way more interesting to see how humans cope with the cold, and how their body fat deals with this.

      • Why don't these scientists study some humans who live in cold places

        Because getting complete diatary and lifestyle control of small lab animals is much cheaper and faster than doing so for humans. And dissecting to examine their intestinal walls, in detail, is something most human study guidelenes would prevent.

        • Because getting complete diatary and lifestyle control of small lab animals is much cheaper and faster than doing so for humans. And dissecting to examine their intestinal walls, in detail, is something most human study guidelenes would prevent.

          Ah, just put it in the small print when you buy a rack called "Skrollan" from Ikea. In the small print, it will say that there is not enough of the small screws, and too many from the big screws, and that you accept to: "dissecting to examine their intestinal walls".

          I always wondered what was in those small, Swedish meatballs that they serve at Ikea . . .

    • As a final experiment the team added some A. muciniphila to the guts of the mice that had received transplants from cold-dwellers, to see how the bug's reintroduction would shape them. Remarkably, these mice started losing weight and, when the researchers examined their intestines two weeks later, they found that the villi had shrunk back to the size of those found in room-temperature mice.

      Probably that Akkermansia muciniphila may be a fruitful area of anti-obesity research and that someone who wants to lose weight may want to start breeding/eating A. muciniphila.

    • Seems like something we already knew, but didn't understand the mechanism. The cooling days in Fall are uncomfortable compared to the warming days in Spring even though the thermometer reads the same, because your body had gotten better at burning calories over the Winter.
    • Scratching my head here. What's the conclusion to be drawn, from these experiments?

      It's evidence on a very specific level, the microbes somehow helping to regulate the length of intestinal villi. We've pretty well established how mammal bodies release stored fat as needed, but the mechanisms that regulate its intake are not as well understood.

      So the interesting question becomes, why are we seeing evidence of a 'system' that is capable of actively regulating villi length rather a simple observation like mere presence of 'germ' x results in y. Stated another way, we're seeing evidence of on

    • Scratching my butt, while typing this response.

      The gut microbiome is the subject. The extent and breadth of it's impact on the human host is the study. External climate on the host effects the gut microbiome composition and the consequence is the result.

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:43PM (#51546581) Homepage

    This explains why I gain weight when pouring beer after cold beer into my gut.

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:47PM (#51546611)

    I found that interesting. Identical mice placed in different environments, on the same diets. One set gets fat, the other stays normal weight.

    Certainly obese humans should eat healthier and exercise, but perhaps it's not all moral failing that make them fatter than normal weight types.

    Also, something like this might suggest further areas of human research. Instead of just saying that the naturally skinny differ "in the genes", researchers might start investigating different subsystems, such as the digestive, to see how changes in them might mitigate weight gain.

    • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Friday February 19, 2016 @11:51PM (#51546625)

      It's also paradoxical. Cold weather should speed up the metabolism, and thus, on the same diet, the organism should lose weight, not gain it. Yet the adaptation to gain fat to likely protect body temperature kicks in, generating changes in the digestive subsystem to achieve that end.

      • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
        Anticipated food scarcity is likely the biggest drive.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by nullchar ( 446050 )

          Or anticipated need for large stores of energy to burn when it's really cold, even if you have more calories available to eat.

      • Given periods of starvation or near to it is the norm for evolution, one would think optimized digestion would exist at any time.

        Or maybe fatsos on the plains of Africa are easy pickings for lions. Given the theory humans lost fur because they would walk/jog down prey for hours until the beast had heat stroke, an actually used technique, maybe that is an alternate body form better suited to survival than fatso, in warm.

        Anyhoo, where is the gut biota miracle pill I can pop daily to peal pounds while sitting

      • > It's also paradoxical. Cold weather should speed up the metabolism,

        Why? Some extra calories for shivering or thermal control seems reasonable. But for most species, winter is a time of low food intake and much reduced activity. Species of both mice and gut microbes that don't optimize food consumption in the cold are at a real evolutionary handicap compared to species that can do so successfully.

      • More and more, it obvious that we should treat the microbiome as an organ in and of itself. It's responding to hormonal signals and regulating a significant portion of the metabolism in such a way as to adapt to external conditions.

        On the other hand, this isn't terribly surprising to me. Under normal circumstances, most swimmers put on a thin layer of subcutaneous fat to insulate themselves from the cold water. That's why they're not as absurdly cut as some of their warmer temperature athletic counterparts.

      • It's also paradoxical. Cold weather should speed up the metabolism, and thus, on the same diet, the organism should lose weight, not gain it. Yet the adaptation to gain fat to likely protect body temperature kicks in, generating changes in the digestive subsystem to achieve that end.

        In short, evolution is a bitch. Everything alive today is the product of a long line of creatures with effective survival adaptations. It turns out that effective survival adaptations don't give a damn about arbitrary aesthetic ideals. Who'da thunk it?

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      I think very few people genuinely believe that it's "all moral failing", just that some people push back against the people unwilling to accept that, with a few exceptions, it is partly moral failling.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        I think very few people genuinely believe that it's "all moral failing"

        If you're overweight and in a church, you're be surprised by how many members are willing to disciple you about your stomach rather than your heart. Your stomach won't lead you into sin like your heart will. But the stomach is low-hanging fruit that self-righteous pricks like to harass people about because they're not that good at talking about the heart.

        • What IS it about fat people where they get enraged when someone points out they're fat? It's not like they can hide it or anything. Everyone can not only see, but see exactly how fat you are as well.
          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            What IS it about fat people where they get enraged when someone points out they're fat?

            What IS it about skinny people that they appoint themselves as self-righteous pricks by offering unsolicited, and often inappropriate, advice to fat people? A friend insisted that I run seven miles a day even though it would blow out my knees. A coworker insisted that I drink water all the time even though I drink more water than him. Another coworker insisted in front of other coworkers at a meeting that I get lap-band surgery even though we weren't talking about my weight.

            Everyone can not only see, but see exactly how fat you are as well.

            I don't have a problem with being

            • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2016 @03:12AM (#51547279)

              What IS it about fat people where they get enraged when someone points out they're fat?

              What IS it about skinny people that they appoint themselves as self-righteous pricks by offering unsolicited, and often inappropriate, advice to fat people? A friend insisted that I run seven miles a day even though it would blow out my knees. A coworker insisted that I drink water all the time even though I drink more water than him. Another coworker insisted in front of other coworkers at a meeting that I get lap-band surgery even though we weren't talking about my weight.

              Everyone can not only see, but see exactly how fat you are as well.

              I don't have a problem with being fat. I'm on a low carb diet, work out at the gym and drink plenty of water. I'm doing what I can do without killing myself in the process. Seems like skinny people are insecure around me because I'm not insecure or ashamed of being fat. I put that nonsense behind me years ago.

              I get the same type of self righteous crap from people about my diabetes, which I have had for about 18 years, and I usually let them tell me all the shit about what I should and shouldn't eat, and how it is all my fault.. and I wait about a beat and smile and tell them that I have type 1 diabetes not the type that you get from insulin resistance and the non alcoholic fatty liver syndrome effects.

              People are dicks, unless they work not to be. It is more about them and their insecurities and inferiority complexes and confirmation biases than it is about you. Pay those idiots no mind is my advice. The lady that suggested lap-band surgery out of the blue needs to be complimented on her lack of people skills and have an HR complaint filed it sounds like. I would have just laughed and said something like "I can get on a treadmill, what can you do about just being ugly? Bag over the head much?"

              Not everyone is the same, has the same habits or conditioning or gut flora and all of it matters to one degree or another. I have a fucked up mean immune system is my problem and it is no ones fault. It just happened. This does not stop idiots who don't have a problem ascribing to their skill or moral superiority, something that has happened by chance. This is a cognitive bias on their part and nothing to do with you, let them be morons.. rest assured that people around within earshot don't think those people are smart or witty or anything but ugly bags of mostly water.

              Carry on with your exercise and build some muscle .. and someday kick their ass when they mouth off.. :)

              And most importantly, be happy!

        • by Livius ( 318358 )

          Because it is *partly* moral failing. Aside from some rare medical conditions, an obese person is not a *completely* innocent victim. These critics are people who a) are giving encouragement but not in a constructive way and/or b) are self-centredly showing off their own moral strength for having avoided the temptation.

          But no-one has infinite strength of character. Ironically Jesus once said something about hypocrisy when criticizing others.

          I don't understand why that's too complicated for so many people.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            Because it is *partly* moral failing. Aside from some rare medical conditions, an obese person is not a *completely* innocent victim.

            The doctor told my mother that she was carrying twin girls. She got a ten-pound baby boy instead. (A huge disappointment for her, a huge relief for my father.) My bone structure is three times larger than my mother's and twice as large as my father's. Due to a misdiagnosed hearing loss in one ear, I was diagnosed as mentally retarded by the school district and I spent eight years in special ed classes being treated like an idiot. I skipped high school and went to college because I was a lot smarter than adu

            • My bone structure is three times larger than my mother's and twice as large as my father's.

              Bone structure and fatness have nothing to do with each other.

              • by creimer ( 824291 )

                Bone structure and fatness have nothing to do with each other.

                That wouldn't become obvious until after I became an adult. I was just big all around as a kid.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Instead of just saying that the naturally skinny differ "in the genes", researchers might start investigating different subsystems, such as the digestive, to see how changes in them might mitigate weight gain.

      A sixth grade school principle tried to make a case against my parents that they were abusing me because I was a fat kid. He called them into his office for a conference meeting. His mouth fell open when he met them. My parents were "naturally skinny" and weren't fat people as the principal thought they were. That particular meeting went south in a hurry. I went through several years of blood tests but the doctors could never find a medical reason for why I was bigger than my parents.

      • I understood when teachers wanted to know if my parents were abusing me because I was skinny -- withholding food is certainly a form of abuse that happens -- but I don't get how fat can ever be a sign of parental abuse. He thought they were prying your mouth open and forcing food in every day, or what? If anything, fat would appear outwardly to be a sign of parents being too nice and letting their kid eat whatever he wants.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          [...] but I don't get how fat can ever be a sign of parental abuse.

          I think the principle wanted to fat shame me by making a big deal about my weight in front of my parents, and his plan fell apart after my skinny parents walked through the door. You really can't fat shame skinny parents for having a fat kid, especially when a half-dozen blood tests come back negative for any medical causes.

          • You really can't fat shame skinny parents for having a fat kid, especially when a half-dozen blood tests come back negative for any medical causes.

            There's mounting evidence, from this study and a few others, that no amount of blood testing will ever find anything, yet there is still a medical reason. It looks like they should have been testing your gut flora, not your blood. Of course, even after this is accepted science, and effective treatments are developed, people like that principal will still insist that it's all somebody's fault.

            • by creimer ( 824291 )

              There's mounting evidence, from this study and a few others, that no amount of blood testing will ever find anything, yet there is still a medical reason.

              This was in the early 1980's. I barely missed out on the Ritalin craze that came afterward.

        • Morbid obesity is a real health risk for many American children. Whether cause or effect, it's correlated with diabetes, heart trouble, and sleep apnea, to name only a few conditions that can kill a child.

        • Overeating can be a coping mechanism for environmental stress. Abusive parents who nevertheless keep the fridge well-stocked could cause a kid to be fat. I'm not saying that's what the GP's principal believed, but excessive weight could be a sign of emotional abuse.
  • Over the last several years there have been a lot of interesting results come in regarding the microbiome in the gut and the overall effect that has on health and metabolism. Although fecal transplants have been shown to effect the gut flora, it will be interesting to see more investigation of probiotics and the extent to which they genuinely contribute to a healthy gut, and what parameters there are to that.

  • We don't know shit!

  • I raise pigs on pasture year round in a cold climate (USDA Zone 3 Vermont mountains). For years I have done selective breeding to produce pigs that pasture well and thrive right through cold winters without the need for commercial grain / hog feed. There is a genetic component and this article suggests a gut biome component too which is likely passed through the herds from sow to piglets since young pigs practice coprophagia which has been shown to also teach them what to eat as well as inoculating their di

  • I leave the translation to you...

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