Obesity Alters Gut Microbial Ecology Essay

1951 words - 8 pages

A common theme among the concerns of today’s American citizens is that of obesity. Obesity, identifiable by abnormal fat accumulation, can be defined in absolute terms by one who has a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. It is estimated that over 30 percent of American adults are clinically obese. This number has shown a dramatic increase from the 15 percent of American adults suffering from obesity in 1980. Globally, 400 million adults are obese, while predictions place this number at 700 million by 2015. The major issue confronting this adiposity is the health conditions that accompany states of extreme obesity. These include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis among others. The escalating number of obese and the health effects connected to this condition have resulted in increased research and attention to the study of obesity.

It is the common belief that the cause of obesity is solely due to an excessive consumption of food. However, recent studies have made a correlation between obesity and the diversity of microbiota in the gut. One project of focus (“Obesity alters gut microbial ecology”) measured the proportions of gut microbes in mice populations and hypothesized a relationship between this bacterial number and body mass.

The significance of this field of study is vital to the issue of obesity. First, such a discovery would falsify the stereotype that obesity is exclusively a result of a disproportionate intake of calories. Instead, it would show that this condition is a genetic trait which maintains an acute relationship with the composition of microbes in the gut. More importantly, if the exact association between obesity and gut microbes can be discovered, it may be possible to alter or manipulate the microbe population in order to regulate, and even prevent, obesity.

Some facts about gut microbial flora:

* 10 to 100 trillion microorganisms live in the intestine of an adult human.
* These microorganisms help in extracting calories from polysaccharides in our diet.
* They are able to break up polysaccharides that we would otherwise not be able to hydrolyze.
* Studies in mice, which also have large numbers of microbes living in their guts, have shown that there may be a link between storing energy as fat and microbial activity.
* It is thought that the microbes regulate the expression of the gut protein fasting-induced adipocyte protein (FIAF). This protein is an inhibitor of lipoprotein lipase (LPL).
* If the microbes suppress FIAF, then the level of LPL increases.
* Increased LPL levels enhance fat storage (make an individual fatter).
* There exists a highly adapted range of bacteria present in the human gut that are inherited maternally.

The hypothesis:

Obesity may be linked to differences in the microbial makeup of each individual. Individuals prone to obesity may possess microbes that are more efficient at extracting energy from food than lean...

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