Bacteria for Weight Loss

It is hard to lose weight, that’s for sure. It seems that nothing really helps shed those extra pounds. There is new research that offers hope from an unexpected area: bacteria. It may be possible to lose weight through a small change to our diet and an equally small change to our stomach bacteria!

Scientists have known for decades that bacteria play a key role in digesting our food.  Although we are born without any stomach bacteria at all, we quickly take in hundreds of different bacteria, some good and some bad. These bacteria process the food we eat into energy for our body, plus fat. Ah, there’s the rub!

A new study was recently published in the prestigious journal Science that examines the role of bacteria in our body weight. A graduate student at Washington University found four pairs of twins, where one twin was thin and the other  twin was obese. These eight people were the volunteers  to determine if body weight could be impacted by a change in bacteria.

The stomach bacteria were transplanted into mice that had been raised in a sterile environment. That meant that they did not have any stomach bacteria before receiving bacteria from a human twin. Their body weight and overall health was monitored over time.

The mice that received bacteria from thin twins remained thin. The mice that received bacteria from obese twins gained weight and developed metabolism-related health issues. This was despite all of the rats having exactly the same amount of food.

Next, the thin mice and the obese mice were placed into a single cage. This allowed the bacteria to be shared between mice (don’t ask). Surprisingly, the thin mice stayed thin, but the obese mice became thin, too. This only happened when the food source was low in fat and high in fiber. When the food source was high in fat and low in fiber the obese mice remained obese.

What does that mean for us? It could be possible at some future time to take a bacteria-laden pill to shift the stomach bacteria population from obese bugs to skinny bugs. Bring on the skinny bacteria!

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