Monday, January 30, 2017

Gut Bacteria Diversity and Gut Bacteria Memory May Affect Obesity

According to a 2008 St. Louis study, our gut is the home to trillions of bacteria. These bacteria extract calories from food and help manage nutrients. While gut bacteria are found in every person's guts, each one of us has a unique set of bacteria. At least one study has shown that gut bacteria are important in weight control. Both gut bacteria diversity and gut memory may play a role in how bacteria in the gut affect our weight.

Some studies have concluded that individuals with the least diverse set of gut bacteria are more susceptible to obesity. In a recent study, investigators looked at the stool of approximately 300 Danish subjects. The study subjects were a mixture of lean and obese individuals. The investigators concluded that the subjects who had a low level of gut bacteria diversity experienced the most insulin resistance and inflammation. And this low level of gut bacteria is a sign of future metabolic diseases. The low diversity group was also more likely to gain weight.

Another interesting study, done with mice, has shown that gut bacteria have a memory. And this memory might be a factor in the weight gain after weight loss. In the study, done at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, when mice lost weight on a weight loss program, the researchers determined that the gut bacteria in the mice after weight loss were the same as the pre-weight loss gut bacteria. This sameness is what helps to create a memory problem.

According to one of the study's investigators, “in obese mice ... following successful dieting and weight loss, the [gut bacteria retain] a ‘memory’ of previous obesity ...” And, “This ... [gut bacteria memory] accelerated the regaining of weight when the mice were put back on a high-calorie diet or ate regular food in excessive amounts.”  So a high level of gut bacteria diversity can improve metabolic parameters and help a person maintain a healthy weight. But gut memory may prevent us from maintaining weight loss (if human study results are similar to mice results). Therefore, weight loss therapies that address both of these conditions could lead to new weight loss tools.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Multiple Problems Associated with Obesity

Obesity is a big problem in the United States and around the world. It's a problem because obesity has many associated comorbidities that can shorten a person's life, diminish a person's quality of life, and increase a person's health care costs. And there have been studies that highlight some of the negative consequences of obesity, including out-of-pocket costs.

Obesity and overweight are associated with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, many cancers, sleep apnea, heart disease, and other illnesses. While these associations are important and generally accepted, emphasizing the relationship between obesity, quality of life (HRQL), and the cost of obesity can be key in driving home the need to prevent or treat obesity.

A 2000 study indicated that obesity negatively affected a person's ability to function physically, and that obesity negatively affected a person's perception of his or her general health. Further, the researchers concluded that "even modest levels of overweight are associated with significant reductions in" quality of life.  However, by following the right program, it is possible to improve quality of life, as indicated by a 2006 weight management study.

According to the study's researchers, "individuals were able to achieve significant improvements in [quality of life] following a 6-month behavioral intervention and were able to maintain many of those improvements at a 24 month follow-up." The researchers did indicate that some of the improvements in HRQL were not "solely" tied to the weight management program. Still the program did affect quality of life.

And concerning obesity cost, a recent report referenced a review that associated costs with obesity. The review looked at how reducing BMI could save a person's health care costs. The reviewers indicated that "for individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, a 5 percent weight reduction would yield $2,137 in medical cost savings annually. For individuals with a BMI of 35, the same percentage reduction would result in $528 savings."

So, obese individuals have three reasons to lose weight. They can lose weight to reduce the risk of comorbidities associated with being obese, individuals can lose weight to improve their quality of life, and individuals can lose weight to lower their healthcare cost. Weight loss providers can use these three pieces of information to counsel patients on the benefits of losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.

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