A research, led by Dr Michelle Beaumont from the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, King’s College London, has found a link between fecal bacteria and obesity. In this large scale study, the investigators found that diversity of gut microbiome has a positive relation with a lean physique.
The university published a press release on the study today, 26th September, discussing the results and future implications of this crucial finding. The results of the study were also published by the journal, Genome Biology, which provides further evidence of genetic influence on obesity through heritable bacteria found in feces.
The study recruited 1,313 twins from country’s largest twin database, TwinsUK cohort, and analyzed the stool samples for extracting DNA information about the fecal microbes. The central focus of this study was to analyze the diversity of fecal microbes, instead of looking at the volume and type of these bacteria.
The relationship of fecal microbe diversity was then studied with six measures of obesity, which included body-mass index (BMI), upper to lower body fat rations and visceral fat. Strongest link was found with the visceral fat, which is commonly known as fats around organs in the abdominal region.
It was found that, people with greater visceral fat levels had less diverse fecal microbes, whereas the diversity of fecal microbes was well associated with non-obese people.
Obesity has become a global epidemic. The global leaders in medical research are tormented by the health conditions which have their root cause in obesity and are tirelessly trying to establish novel associations which put some people at a high risk of becoming obese, while others enjoy their lean physiques and an eventual better health.
Signifying the future implications of this study, Dr Michelle Beaumont said, “This study has shown a clear link between bacterial diversity in feces and markers of obesity and cardiovascular risk, particularly for visceral fat.”
He added that, although the finding of this observational study is of crucial value, further investigation is required to understand the precise mechanism that governs the feces bacteria and their association with how fats are stored in the body and how they play a pivotal role in causing obesity.
Studies have found that at least 50% of fecal bacteria are contributed by the gut bacteria, which has been under scrutiny for a while now to determine its link with obesity and other metabolic disorders.
Trillions of microorganisms reside in our intestines which play a role in food digestion and impact the amount of food we take. Our health is somewhat a reflection of our gut flora; if this gut flora is at its optimal state of work, then we are likely to be eating the right foods and have less risks of developing metabolic diseases and/or becoming obese.
Earlier this year, a study, led by the researchers at Yale University, investigated the link of gut microbe with the likelihood of obesity. The results from this particular study suggested that alternations in the gut microbiota influence our food intake, which in turn had a link with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
In this study, the investigators found that altered gut microbiota led to increased production of acetate which is a short-chain fatty acid. Acetate then triggered release of increased amounts of insulin by the beta cells in the pancreas. Similarly, acetate stimulated secretion of gastrin and ghrelin.
Gastrin, a peptide hormone, increases gastric acid production in the stomach for food digestion and ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, plays a significant role in increasing appetite. They contribute towards higher chances of obesity. Conducted initially in rodents, the study suggested that a similar effect is present in humans.
With another study surfacing today to signify the link between fecal microbe and obesity, it is hoped that the researchers will be able to clearly understand this association.
Reflecting this notion, senior author Dr Jordana Bell commented, “There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that gut bacteria may play a role in obesity, and a number of studies are now exploring this in more detail.”
It was, however, admitted by the researchers that this study had its limitations which are further required to be investigated. This study largely enrolled female participants and failed to set a generalized trend across genders.
The study also failed to look into the eating habits of the participants and how the food interacted with the microbiome, to link back the gut microbe diversity to the food types preferred by the individuals. Thereby, a clear causal relationship was not determined.
However, it is highlighted that the diversity in feces bacteria is attributed to eating diverse types of food.
Similarly, with this study, many obese people can now hope that in future feces bacteria transplants might come to their rescue, if they are too adamant to modify their eating habits.