Specific Gut Bacteria Extract More Energy Which Seems to be Associated with Obesity

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Certain hyper-efficient microbe species in our guts could be the reason why some people gain weight and others don’t, proving once again how much influence the microbiota has in our lives.

Unfair as it is, some of us seem to put on weight just by looking at a pizza while others can munch away with abandon and not gain a gram. Part of the explanation could be related to the composition of our gut microbes.

Researchers studied the residual energy in the feces of 85 Danes to estimate how effective their gut microbes are at extracting energy from food. At the same time, they mapped the composition of gut microbes for each participant.

The results show that roughly 40% of the participants belong to a group that extracts more energy on average from food compared to the other 60%.

The researchers also observed that those who extracted the most energy from food also weighed 10% more on average, amounting to an extra 9 kilograms, or around 20 pounds.

“We may have found a key to understanding why some people gain more weight than others, even when they don’t eat more or any differently. But this needs to be investigated further,” says Associate Professor Henrik Roager of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, which ran the study.

The results indicate that being overweight might not only be related to how healthily one eats, the amount of exercise one gets, or their sleep quality. It may also have something to do with the composition of a person’s gut microbes.

Participants were divided into three groups, based on the composition of their gut microbes. The so-called B-type composition (dominated by Bacteroides bacteria) is more effective at extracting nutrients from food and was observed in 40% of the participants.

Following the study, the researchers suspect that a portion of the population may be disadvantaged by having gut bacteria that are a bit too effective at extracting energy.

This effectiveness may result in more calories being available for the human host from the same amount of food—an adaptation which would have been of great value to early man, but during the age of abundance could be leading to obesity.

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