Is Your Microbiome the Key to Your Weight?

Today I talk about the microbiome in your gut.  These are the trillions of bacteria that help digest food.  They also impact glucose levels and fat storage.

How much is your weight – and your weight gain – controlled by your microbiome?

U.S. researchers studied the microbiomes of several sets of identical twins.  In each case, one twin was obese and the other was thin.  The researchers took fecal samples (that’s “poop”) from these twins and transferred them into the intestines of germ-free mice.  All mice were then fed identical diets.

Mice who had fecal samples from an obese twin stored more fat and grew heavier than mice who had samples from a thin twin.

The researchers then put the obese and thin mice into the same cage.  Over time, the obese mice became thin as well.  Because the mice were eating each others’ feces, the gut bacteria from the thin mice went into the intestines of the obese mice.

Israeli researchers carried these studies further.  When formerly obese mice received fecal transplants from other obese mice, they regained weight.  But when they received fecal transplants from other thin mice, they stayed thin.

The researchers examined these various microbiomes and discovered a crucial difference.  Flavonoids are naturally occurring food compounds that help burn fat.  The bacteria from obese mice destroyed certain flavonoids.  Moreover, the researchers found that high-fat diets promote the growth of these flavonoid-destroying bacteria.

Finally, the researchers transplanted the specific flavonoids – apigenin and narigenin – directly into the intestines of the obese mice.  The mice lost weight.

The U.S. research team was led by Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University.  I’ve blogged about Dr. Gordon.  He is an Agilent Thought Leader, recognized for his pioneering research into the link between the human body and its gut bacteria.

Agilent provided technical support for metabolomics analyses in this research.

Today’s blog post topic was suggested by Steve Fischer, Agilent Market Director for Academia and Government.

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