One-third of Americans struggle with obesity due to lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and genetics; however, after years of studies indicating a correlation, researchers have become increasingly convinced that the gut microbiome plays an important role in obesity.
Throughout human history, we have been home to these bacteria of our intestines, which evolved to help us digest tough plant fibers in exchange for a home. Now, scientists realize their roles extend beyond the digestive system. Novel research indicates that our microbiome alters fat storage and how we respond to hormones, and balances glucose in the blood. Dysbiosis, or an unbalanced gut can potentially lead to obesity and diabetes from the moment of birth.
Researchers now recognize the differences between dysbiosis and a balanced gut, as well as the factors that shape those differences. They hope to study how to cultivate this inner ecosystem in ways that could prevent and potentially treat obesity, which doctors define as having a particular body mass index (BMI) that is greater than 30. Imagine, for example, foods, baby formulas or supplements devised to promote virtuous microbes while suppressing the harmful types. Keeping our gut microbes balanced might be the secret to weight control.
Wallis, C. (2014). How Gut Bacteria Help Make Us Fat and Thin. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-help-make-us-fat-and-thin/