The abundance or scarcity of certain types of bacteria in the gut may also help predict susceptibility to non-alcoholic fatty liver, says a new study.
In a metagenomic analysis of the microbial communities living in the intestinal tracts of 15 female patients participating in a study of the effects on liver condition from a choline-depleted diet, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found a strong correlation between the relative abundances of two specific classes of bacteria and the development of fatty liver.
"Certain bacterial populations correlated very strongly with increased fat in the liver during a restricted choline diet," said Melanie Spencer, lead author of the study.
Because all patients consumed identical diets during the study, the researchers predicted that the initially distinct and complex communities of microbes in the patients' intestinal tracts would react by becoming less distinct from each other.
The researchers found instead that, though each of the patients' bacterial communities did change a bit, each individual's community still remained distinctive throughout the study.
They noticed that among the numerous classes of bacteria present in each patient, variations in the populations of two particular groups seemed to correspond with variations between patients in the degree to which they developed a fatty liver during the period of dietary choline depletion.
"Those patients with the highest abundance of Gammaproteobacteria at the beginning of the study seemed to have the lowest fatty liver development. The ones with the least developed the most fatty liver. Erysipeoltrichi showed exactly the opposite association, though this relationship was not quite as strong. So there seemed to be change going on in opposite directions," said Spencer.
The finding appeared in the journal Gastroenterology.