Most of us blame OUR genes for the extra pounds. Admittedly we may be eating too much and not moving enough, but we all know people who EAT a lot more than we do and MOVE a lot less, who aren’t carrying extra fat layers.
So it must be our FAT GENES !
But hang on minute, you are more than just the sum of your genes, your metabolism is your genes, plus the genes of the trillion or so bacteria living in your GUT.
Could their genes be contribution to your weight problems?
Stripping away human genes
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine wanted to explore how the bacteria in our GUT, might contribute to metabolic syndrome and obesity.
But this kind of study is really difficult, because a long list of human genes, have been implicated in obesity, which complicates things. To separate out human gene effects, from bacteria gene effects, you need to look at people who are genetically the same or very similar.
One option, which is often used to explore nature versus nurture issues, are twin studies. Another is to look at genetically similar populations.
This is what the Maryland team did.
Gut gazing in the countryside
The team headed for the countryside, to an old order Amish community in the heartland of Pennsylvania.
The simple rural lifestyle of this Amish community, has helped create a group of people, who are genetically very similar, since few new genes have been introduced, since the founding families set up home in the area.
But, people living in the community still come in all shapes and sizes. Some members of the community are a little heavier than they should be and suffer from metabolic syndrome i.e. BMI, sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and C-reactive protein levels are higher than normal.
The team collected fecal samples i.e. poo samples, from 310 people in the community, some fat, some thin and some in between.
The team “counted” the bacteria in the stool samples by looking at which bacterial genes were present in each sample.
They discovered that there were three distinct types of bacterial communities or enterotypes. Each enterotype had one particular type of bacteria which dominated the gut.
Hoping to show that fat people, had a different enterotype to skinny people, the team carefully compared the bacteria between the different groups.
There was no difference.
Which bacteria were in the majority, really didn’t make any difference to a person’s weight.
But, the minority mattered.
Pointing fingers at 26 bacteria
The team discovered that the levels of 26 species of bacteria, did matter.
The levels of these bacteria correlated with the metabolic troubles associated with metabolic syndrome.
So are you fat because you’ve got “fat” bacteria ?
It would be nice to blame them for those extra layers of fat, but this might be a little unfair. At the end of the day, who moves has a lot to do with YOUR HABITS.
So strive to cultivate the right microflora
- Eat foods they like
- Eat foods full of bacteria to seed your gut with the good guys
- Keep the stress levels in check
- Don’t use antibiotics when they’re not NECESSARY.
- Don’t be too afraid of a little bit of dirt
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those extra fat layers ?
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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below