Gut bacteria which are responsible for the conversion of food to energy may be behind the tendency of some people to become obese, a new study has said.
The study suggests that the composition of microbes within the gut may hold a key to one cause of obesity-and the prospect of future treatment.Researchers at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute in collaboration with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, Arizona, and the University of Arizona, recruited 9 middle-aged volunteers in three groups-normal weight, morbidly obese and following gastric bypass surgery-to participate in the study.
The research team's central hypothesis is that differing microbial populations in the gut allow the body to harvest more energy, making people more susceptible to developing obesity.
These small differences can, over time, profoundly affect an individual's weight.
Supporting this view is the study's confirmation that the microbial composition among obese patients appears significantly altered compared with both normal weight individuals and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.
However, the researchers stress that the study is preliminary, but were encouraged by the findings from their small sample.
Future investigation is needed to establish the differences in composition of gut microbiota across different age groups and under varying weight-loss regimens involving diet and exercise.
The study has been published in the January 19 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.