‘Gut bugs’ studied as a cause of obesity
By Bijal P. Trivedi, Globe Correspondent | May 22, 2006
Here’s an alternative explanation for the obesity epidemic: Blame it on bacteria.
A small group of scientists say their research in mice suggests that a large part of the difference between fat people and thin people may come down to the microbes that live in their guts.
The human digestive system is home to between 10 trillion and 100 trillion bacteria — at least 10 times the number of human cells in the body. ”This makes us more microbe than man,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In exchange for shelter and a plentiful food supply, these bacteria boost their host’s digestion by extracting nutrients from otherwise indigestible food particles.
Gordon believes, though his science isn’t there yet, that people with certain communities of gut microbes may get more calories from their food — and therefore pack on more fat — than people with a different set of bugs. Manipulating these bacteria by diet or medications may eventually become one approach to fighting obesity, he and others said.