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Weight gain linked to poor gut bacteria

Weight gain linked to poor gut bacteria

Friday, September 6, 2013. An article published online on August 28, 2013 in the journal Nature reports the MetaHIT consortium's finding of an association between gut bacterial "richness" and protection against obesity. The consortium is made up of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, China's BGI and a number of other institutes, and is coordinated by coordinated by Professor S. Dusko Ehrlich at France's Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique.

The current research compared the gut bacterial genes of 169 obese and 123 nonobese Danish men and women. It was discovered that approximately one-fourth of the participants had up to 40% fewer gut bacterial genes than the remainder of the study population and correspondingly fewer bacteria. This group also had less bacterial diversity. Subjects with low bacterial richness were significantly likely to have more adiposity or to be obese, and to have gained more weight over the previous nine years. They were also more insulin resistant, more likely to be dyslipidemic, and had an increase in markers of inflammation and white blood cells, indicating a greater risk for diabetes or heart disease. The research team identified eight bacterial species as possibly preventive against weight gain. The findings could lead to new therapies for obesity or the development of diagnostic tests to identify those at risk of diseases linked to gut microbiome alterations.

In another article appearing on August 28 in Nature, members of the ANR MicroObes consortium report that a low fat diet improved microbial gene richness, in both diversity and numbers. "This indicates that you can repair some of the damage to your gut bacteria simply by changing your dietary habits," remarked Oluf Pedersen who co-headed the Danish portion of the MetaHIT project. "Our intestinal bacteria are actually to be considered an organ just like our heart and brain, and the presence of health-promoting bacteria must therefore be cared for in the best way possible. Over the next years, we will be gathering more knowledge of how best to do this."

"The long-term dream is to map and characterize any naturally occurring gut bacteria that produce appetite-inhibiting bioactive substances and in this way learn to exploit the body's own medicine to prevent the obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes," he added.

"At present we cannot do anything about our own DNA, individual variation which also plays a crucial role in susceptibility for lifestyle diseases," Dr Pederson noted. "But thanks to the new gut microbiota research, we now can start exploring interactions between host genetics and the gut bacteria- related environment which we may be able to change. That is why it is so exciting for us scientists within this research field– the possibilities are huge."

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Reduced vitamin D levels associated with obesity

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An article published online on February 6, 2012 in the American Journal of Epidemiology reveals an association between decreased serum vitamin D levels and a greater incidence of obesity in adults.

Xiao-Mei Mai of Norwegian University of Science and Technology and colleagues evaluated data from 2,460 men and women aged 19 to 55 who participated in the second and third surveys of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, conducted between 1995 to 1997 and 2006 to 2008. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and anthropometric measurements were obtained upon enrollment and at follow up.

Twelve percent of the subjects were classified as obese [defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more] at the beginning of the study and 15 percent were classified as obese after 11 years of follow-up. Having a serum vitamin D level below 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) was associated with a four times greater adjusted risk of obesity than that experienced by subjects whose levels were 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) or higher at the beginning of the study, and with a 1.73 times greater risk of developing obesity over follow-up. Similar results were observed when waist circumference was used to classify obesity, indicating an association with central adiposity.

"Our study is one of the few prospective cohort studies to have investigated the possible effect of low vitamin D status on change in adiposity and development of obesity," the authors write. "We found a consistent inverse association between baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and incident obesity defined by either BMI or waist circumference after 11 years of follow-up, and this inverse association was not modified by season of blood sample collection."

They recommend large prospective studies to further investigate the relationship between low vitamin D levels and the development of obesity.

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