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Understanding the relationship between bacteria and obesity
Date:5/27/2010

SAN DIEGO, CA May 26, 2010 -- Research presented today sheds new light on the role bacteria in the digestive tract may play in obesity. The studies, which were presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, paint a picture that may be more complex than originally thought.

"Work currently underway suggests that an interaction between genetic factors and the composition of the bacteria that inhabit the human gut may predispose certain individuals towards obesity. These results potentially provide insight into the mechanisms by which genetics may predispose some people to obesity. They could also help pave the way towards a future in which genetic screening in conjunction with individually tailored treatments could help people at risk for obesity to maintain a healthy weight," says Margaret Zupancic, of the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who presented one of the studies.

Zupancic and her colleagues analyzed the gut bacterial communities of lean and obese individuals belonging to the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a population relatively homogenous in regard to both genetics and lifestyle. Initially they found no correlation between the composition of the gut bacteria and obesity, but when they factored in the genetic makeup of the participants, certain patterns began to emerge.

One pattern was a statistically significant correlation between whether the participant carried a given variant of the FTO gene (a gene associated with obesity) and the presence of certain bacterial groups in the digestive tract.

The researchers also found that in people with certain genetic variations in taste receptor genes, a low level of bacterial diversity in the gut correlated with a higher likelihood of obesity, while a high level of diversity correlated with a lower likelihood of obesity.

"While this work is still at a relatively ea
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Contact: Garth Hogan
ghogan@asmusa.org
American Society for Microbiology
Source:Eurekalert

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