In research that
may help explain why excessive weight problems and obesity tend
to run in families, the scientists said high levels of visceral
fat - which is linked to risks of chronic disease - were linked
to having a relatively small range of bacteria in faeces.
People with a high diversity of bacteria in their faeces had
lower levels of visceral fat, according to the study published
on Monday in the journal Genome Biology.
Visceral fat is harmful because it sits around important organs
like the liver, pancreas and intestines. It is linked to higher
risks of diabetes and heart disease.
The scientists used data from stool samples from 1,313 twins
already involved in a large research project called TwinsUK.
Extracting DNA information about fecal microbes from the
samples, they then compared that to six measures of obesity,
including body mass index, visceral and other fat levels, and
upper to lower body fat ratios. They found the strongest links
with visceral fat.
Michelle Beaumont, who led the work at King's College London,
said it showed "a clear link between bacterial diversity in
faeces and markers of obesity and cardiovascular risk."
But she cautioned that since this was an observational study, it
could not give any causal mechanisms for how gut and fecal
bacteria might affect fat.
Jordana Bell, also from King's twin research department, said
more studies were needed to understand precisely how gut
microbes influence human health and to explore possible new ways
of preventing obesity.
Further research would also help in investigating a possible
role for procedures like fecal transplants - a treatment
currently used in patients with an infection called C.difficile
colitis which replaces their unhealthy fecal microbiome with a
healthy one from a donor.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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