New research indicates that certain bacteria in your gut may be a cause of obesity. While the verdict is still out on the subject, tests on rats seem to indicate that this is so.
Two Types of Bacteria
Studies with rats discovered two types of bacteria living in the gut. These two types of bacteria are known as bacteroidetes and firmicutes. It is the latter bacteria—the firmicutes—that seems to be related to obesity.
Firmicutes are better able to help us digest our food, meaning that more calories are drawn out of our food with the help of these bacteria. Studies with rats show that obese rats have more firmicutes than bacteroidetes, while the opposite is true of lean mice—they have more bacteroidetes than firmicutes.
Studies on stool samples of human show similar results—obese people tend to have more firmicutes than bacteroidetes, while lean people tend to have more bacteroidetes than firmicutes. Furthermore, on a study conducted of dieters, scientists discovered that over the course of the study, as the dieters lost weight, so did they also lose firmicutes. This suggested that our diet has an effect on the bacteria in our gut.
How Bacteria Increases Weight Gain
Firmicutes help us to digest more calories out of our food. Therefore, the more firmicutes you have, the more likely that you are to gain weight. This also explains the difference between the people who eat the same amount of food, but gain different amounts of weight from it.
In addition, bacteria in the gut can cause a slowdown of your metabolism—causing the food to move slower through your digestive system, thereby allowing even more calories to be processed from it.
Bacteria and Diabetes
That’s not even the worst of it. Studies on rats found something even more disturbing about bacteria in the gut. Rats that are lacking a certain protein in their body—toll-like receptor 5, also known as TLR5—were more likely to be obese and develop diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is identified by weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
The reason behind this is simple—TLR5 monitors and controls the bacteria in your gut. However, without this protein, gut bacteria can get into the bloodstream. This causes inflammation as the body begins to respond to the intrusion of foreign substances in the body. Inflammation then competes for the attention of your cells with insulin—leading to insulin desensitizing. This leads to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
The word is still out on all of this. The studies conducted have noticed this behavior in rats in a controlled environment. Humans, on the other hand, are harder to study due to many factors—including the lack of a controlled environment. However, studies are looking into this development, so it behooves you to be aware of this topic and stay on top of it. Breaking open the secret of bacteria and weight gain can open the door to a cure for obesity and its related diseases.