The gut health/immune health story continues…and it’s weighty.
Posted Jul 07 2010 10:47am
Newsweek and other media are writing about about gut bacteria (which I’ve blogged about here several times) and how the distribution and composition of specific bacteria in our digestive system may play a significant role in weight gain and obesity. The news is a result of a couple of studies independently published in recent issues of Science and Nature. Sharon Begley’s Newsweek story cites a body of research suggesting that the bacterial colonies in your intestinal system may be key in how calories are absorbed and metabolized, or rejected and sent away to be converted into fat. “People whose gut bacteria are better at digesting fats and carbs than their neighbor’s will absorb all 1,500 calories in a Friendly’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese Burger Melt, while the neighbor will absorb fewer. So even in people with identical metabolisms, the effects of eating identical foods can be different,” she writes.
So what about gut bacteria and immune health, amid all this? This is where inflammation comes in, which we’ve also covered here. Begley states: “…the precise way in which gut bacteria affect weight is a matter of intense dispute. The idea that different bacteria extract more or fewer calories from the food we send their way, as Gordon’s studies suggest, is only one possibility. Another possible explanation is that gut bacteria contribute to obesity (as well as to type 2 diabetes, which often goes along with being overweight) by altering the immune system. The idea here is that gut bacteria interact with intestinal cells in a way that causes them to secrete cytokines, molecules that can cause low-grade inflammation. This inflammation can, in turn, trigger insulin resistance (the mark of type 2 diabetes) and increased appetite, which is an effective way to put on weight.”