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Bacteria Can Make You Fat?!

Sep 30, 2014 08:44 PM EDT
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Researchers have determined that a very specific species of gut bacteria coupled with a high-fat diet may cause animals to gain weight, causing experts to wonder if it can seriously impact weight loss efforts.

A new study recently published in the journal mBio details how the gut bacteria Clostridium ramosum helped mice gain weight far faster on a high-fat diet compared to mice on the same diet without the bacteria present.

"We were surprised that presence or absence of one species in a defined bacterial community affected body weight and body fat development in mice," Michael Blaut, the study's senior author, said in a statement.

Most interestingly, after four weeks of being fed high-fat diets, lab mice were found to not differ in energy intake, how well they were digesting, or any kind of inflammation that could be contributing to obesity. Instead, their findings suggest that C. ramosum somehow impacts the efficiency of energy conversion, especially after it was determined that mice fed a leaner diet did not grow fatter despite some having the bacteria in their intestines.

"Our results indicate that Clostridium ramosum improves nutrient uptake in the small intestine and thereby promotes obesity," Blaut added. "This possibly means that there is more than one mechanism underlying the promotion of obesity by intestinal bacteria."

The researcher told the American Society of Microbiology (AMS) that he and his team hope learn about this bacteria specifically as a model of how microbiomes could be impacting the rate of obesity in some parts of the world. High-fat diets of course still remain the underlying cause of the epidemic, but other environmental factors may be impacting the presence of this bacteria in particular.

"Unraveling the underlying mechanism may help to develop new strategies in the prevention or treatment of obesity," he said.

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