Body Fat And Bacteria In Feces: How A Link May Show Us Where To Look For Inherited Obesity Connection
A new study coming from the U.K. is showing that the composition of the bacteria found in human feces may influence the levels of dangerous types of fat we have in our bodies. The research could lead to breakthroughs on how and why obesity is passed along in families as well.
The study, conducted by researchers at King’s College in London analyzed stool samples from more than 3,600 sets of twins and found evidence that at least some of the make-up of this bacteria is inherited, thus potentially offering a partial explanation for obesity being a heritable trait.
By comparing the data culled from the samples provided by the study participants to information about six different measures of obesity, including body mass index and different types of body fat, the researchers were able to find a correlation with certain types of fat, most especially visceral fat. This is an especially dangerous fat type, the kind that is stored in the abdomen, giving people not only the “spare tire” look, but also surrounding organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines. It has also been linked to higer risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
And while the study showed a clear link between this type of fecal bacteria and fat, lead author Dr. Michelle Beaumont of The Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London said it was not yet possible to explain why there might be such a connection.
“As this was an observational study we cannot say precisely how communities of bacteria in the gut might influence the storage of fat in the body, or whether a different mechanism is involved in weight gain,” she said.
One theory has it that a lack of variety in fecal bacteria might lead to the domination of high levels of the types of gut microbes that are good at turning carbohydrates into fat.
Indeed, there is more and more evidence that gut bacteria may have much greater influence over not only obesity, but also our mental health and brain function too.
We’ve known for some time that at least half of human feces is made up of bacteria that is shed from the gut–Dr. Beaumont suggested that perhaps eating a wider variety of different types of foods as our hunter-gatherer ancestors did could lead to more diversity of microbes in our gut biome.
But if nothing else, the research–published in the journal Genome Biology–could open up new avenues for future research that will help us better understand how gut bacteria, and thus obesity may be passed down from generation to generation.