Obesity and its associated illness type 2 diabetes (T2D) have reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Increased food intake and lack of exercise are two main contributing factors, with past research firmly establishing an important role of gut microbiota in metabolic disorders. However, the exact mechanism linking gut microbiota to obesity is yet to be identified. Now, a study from researchers at the University of Utah Health identifies a specific class of bacteria from the gut which prevents mice from becoming obese. 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 demonstrates one role of the immune system is to maintain balance among the diverse array of bacteria in the gut, with the impairment of the body’s defenses causing 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.
The current study utilizes mice experimentally treated so Clostridia is the only bacteria living in their gut, and mice treated to have an impaired immune system. 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.
Results show even when fed a healthy diet, the immune-compromised mice become obese, and 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. They go on to add these mice produced fewer of the antibodies which made the gut far less hospitable for Clostridia, leading to more fat absorption and excessive weight gain; over time, these mice also developed signs of type 2 diabetes.
The team surmises they have identified the specific microbiota which prevents obesity in mice. For the future, the researchers state the next step is to isolate the metabolites of the Clostridia microbiota and 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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