Another Cause of Obesity: The Bacteria in Your Gut?

BifidusIf you have ever fought the battle of the bulge, then you are all too familiar with its key players: diet, exercise and your genes. The less you move (calories out) and the more you eat (calories in), the more fat you gain – an equation that may be heavily influenced by your particular genes. But scientists have long known that these three factors do not adequately explain every case of obesity, and now researchers are discovering increasingly convincing evidence of another important contributor to body weight, one that until recently has been almost completely ignored: the bacteria that live in your gut.

Technically, they’re known as the gut microbiota, the universe of tens of trillions of microbes, most of which survive without oxygen, and which live and thrive in the human intestinal tract and colon. These microbes perform a vast range of vital functions, including helping to regulate the calories the body obtains from food and stores as fat – in other words, they may help regulate weight. And a new study published today in Science Translational Medicine suggests that the particular type and balance of bugs you harbor in your gut may help push your body toward either obesity or leanness, and that these microbe populations might even be manipulated to potentially change your weight.

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