Obesity and its associated illness type 2 diabetes have reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Meanwhile, increased food intake and lack of exercise are two main contributing factors to obesity. Additionally, past research firmly establishes an important role of gut microbiota in metabolic disorders. In spite of this, the link between the gut microbiota and obesity is unknown.
Gut microbiota prevents obesity
Now, a study from researchers at the University of Utah Health identifies a specific class of gut microbiota that prevents obesity in mice. The team states the bacteria, called Clostridia, may similarly control weight in people. The study is published in the journal Science.
Previous studies show gut microbiota plays a major role in the development of food absorption and low-grade inflammation, two key processes in obesity and diabetes. Recent studies from the group demonstrate one role of the immune system is to maintain balance among the diverse array of bacteria in the gut.
This is because impairment of the body’s defenses can cause certain bacterial species to dominate over others, negatively impacting health. The current study shows Clostridia prevents weight gain by blocking the intestine’s ability to absorb fat.
Bacteria can control obesity genes
The current study utilizes mice experimentally treated so Clostridia is the only bacteria living in their gut. Subsequently, mice treated to have an impaired immune system were compared to these animals. Results show the Clostridia-only mice were leaner with less fat than mice with no microbiome at all. Data findings show Clostridia-only mice also had lower levels of the CD36 gene, which regulates the body’s uptake of fatty acids.
Indeed, results show that even when fed a healthy diet, the immune-compromised mice become obese. In contrast, giving Clostridia back to these animals allowed them to stay slim. The lab explains the obesity observed in immune-compromised mice stemmed from the failure of the body’s defense system to appropriately recognize bacteria.
Antibodies can fight obesity
They go on to add these mice produced fewer of the antibodies which made the gut far less hospitable for Clostridia. Accordingly, this led to more fat absorption and excessive weight gain. Thus, over time, these mice also developed signs of type 2 diabetes.
The team surmises they have identified the specific microbiota that prevents obesity in mice. For the future, the researchers state the next step is to isolate the metabolites of the Clostridia microbiota. Then further characterize how they work to potentially treat obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other related metabolic disorders.
Source: University of Utah Health
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.