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Mayo Clinic Proceedings Examines a Possible Link Between Bacteria Found in the Human Digestive System and Obesity
Date:4/1/2008

reviewed by the authors focused on the gene content of the gut microbiota in mice. Finding more end products of fermentation and fewer calories in the feces of obese mice led researchers to speculate that the gut microbiota in the obese mice help extract additional calories from ingested food.

"These results suggest that differences exist in the gut microbiota of obese versus lean mice, raising the possibility that the manipulation of gut microbiota could be a useful strategy for regulating energy balance in obese people," says Dr. DiBaise.

Although information on the link between gut microbiota and obesity in human subjects is more limited, the authors present some evidence supporting this connection. One study cited placed 12 obese participants in a weight-loss program for a year, randomly assigning them to either a fat-restricted or carbohydrate-restricted, low-calorie diet. Researchers noted distinct differences between lean and obese participants when they monitored the type and number of bacteria found in participants' stool samples before and after the diet changes.

Another study cited followed children from birth to age 7 and analyzed stool samples collected at 6 and 12 months. The children who were normal weight at age 7 had distinctly different bacteria in their samples from those collected from overweight-obese children, suggesting that differences in the composition of the gut microbiota precede overweight-obesity.

Dr. DiBaise says that much more research is needed to clarify a number of issues related to the relationship between the gut microbiota and obesity. Future studies need to establish whether the small changes in caloric extraction seen in recent studies can produce measurable weight differences in humans. Second, researchers need to prove or disprove the possible relationship between the gut microbiota and the regulation of weight.

"In particular, it is essential to demonstrate unequivocally whether
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SOURCE Mayo Clinic Public Affairs
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