A New, and Very Old, Ally in the Battle of the Bulge

Fat & Thin WomenBy Peter Tsang, DPM, CWS, FACCWS

Didn’t you think 5 years on The South Beach Diet, a 100-year XSport membership, and the pain and vomiting after the Lap-Band surgery, would be enough to lose that beer gut, muffin top, spare tire, and reverse your diabetes?

Not quite enough, according to the stunning results from a study at Washington University in St. Louis published in the Science Journal on September 6, 2013.  The researchers harvested fecal samples from 8 human subjects consisting of 4 sets of twin; one obese, one lean; to cancel out genetic and environmental differences. The samples were then transplanted to mice who were raised without germs in their guts. The mice were fed low-fat. high-fiber mouse chow. The mice with the transplant from the obese twins gained weight and started exhibiting metabolic changes related to obesity. These obese mice did not even eat more than the lean mice.

Then the researchers performed what the senior scientist, Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, called “The Battle of the Microbiota.” They placed the obese mice in the same cage as the lean mice. They were fed the same low-fat, high-fiber mouse chow. The obese mice became leaner with the bad metabolic changes disappearing. The researchers found that the flora from the lean mice populated the gut of the obese mice. However, the lean mice did not get fatter in this mix. The researchers did not find gut flora from the obese mice in the lean mice. The transfer was one way. How did the transfer take place? Well, the mice supplemented their diet with feces.

When the researchers fed the mice with an “American” diet of higher fat and lower fiber content; the obese mice remained obese. The gut flora exchange did not take place. Apparently, the higher fat, lower fiber diet was not friendly to the flora from the lean mice, so  no transfer was possible.

Since I do not foresee humans swapping and eating feces; the only cleaner, safer alternative would be to determine which bacteria are needed and put them into a pill. Dr. Gordon believes that would take at least 5 more years of research. In the mean time, all we could do is to feed the beneficial bacteria that we do have with a lower fat, higher fiber diet. Nothing that we don’t already know. I guess we have to tend to our gut bacteria like we do our gardens; nurture the flowers and vegetables, and pull out the weeds.

Related links and sources:

The Science Journal

The New York Times

The Huffington Post

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