Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gut Bacteria May Play a Role in Weight Gain

Researchers at The Washington University St. Louis Medical School have been studying the bacteria within the human gut. The researchers point out that trillions of bacteria live in our gut. And although the set of bacteria in the gut is unique to each individual, there are bacteria common to all people. These bacteria perform specific activities, including the extraction of calories from food. And it appears that the physical environment could play a role in the production of gut bacteria.

After performing DNA analysis, the University researchers found that obese persons had some 300 more bacterial gene representations in their body than did non-obese persons. And many of these additional bacteria are responsible for extracting calories from the food we eat. 

It is felt that the physical environment plays an early role in determining the original makeup of these bacteria. This leads to the possibility that where we live can determine, to some extent, the composition of the bacteria we have in our gut. 

Since the physical environment may play a role in the composition of our gut bacteria, looking at the physical environment as an important factor in obesity may be a worthwhile endeavor. And just as we rate cities as more healthy or less healthy, depending on the pollutants in a city's air, we may, some day, be able to rate a city based on obesity-conducive elements in the city's environment. And it may even be possible, someday, to let people know the time of day obesity-related bacteria are likely to be in the air.

Of course, more study is necessary before we are able to determine what environmental elements play a role in obesity. This determination could lead to the creation of treatment and counseling approaches that address obesity-related physical environmental factors. And weight loss and weight management centers could offer services to help combat the effects of obesity-conducive environmental elements.


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