Harness Gut Bacteria to Lose Weight, Live Longer
Two new stories this week underscore the role of gut bacteria in some important aspects of health, including weight control and blood lipid (cholesterol) levels. According to research conducted on behalf of the American Heart Association, at least 34 different species of gut bacteria have been identified so far that directly influence body weight and blood lipid levels. And blood lipid levels have been linked to one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. “Bad” LDL-cholesterol, for instance, is monitored by your doctor with the goal in mind of keeping LDL as low as possible.
“Good” HDL-cholesterol, on the other hand, helps remove LDL from the bloodstream, so it’s desirable for levels of HDL to be high. Many people take statin drugs to help keep LDL-cholesterol levels low. The drugs interfere with the body’s natural production of LDL. It’s also possible, in most instance, to control blood lipid levels—and body weight—through careful attention to diet and exercise.
"Our study provides new evidence that microbes in the gut are strongly linked to the blood level of HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides and may be added as a new risk factor for abnormal blood lipids, in addition to age, gender, BMI and genetics," said Jingyuan Fu, Ph.D., study lead author and associate professor of genetics at University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.
In related news, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, announced the results of recent research, which indicates that one’s specific gut bacteria makeup—the gut microbiome—determines which weight loss diet is best for you. Some people will lose more weight on a given diet, due to the genetic makeup of their microbiome, and the ways these microbes affect our metabolism.
In short, these investigators have shown there’s a clear link between certain types of microbes and the risk of certain diseases. "This is clear as regards type 2 diabetes, hardening of the arteries and obesity, for example. There are also indications that the same might apply to depression and the body's ability to respond to various cancer treatments," says Jens Nielsen, professor of systems biology at Chalmers and head of the research team.
The scientists hope that this work will one day soon allow doctors to tailor diets for their patients that take the patients’ individual gut microbiomes into account. "In the long term we might be able to add intestinal bacteria for patients whose metabolism does not function properly," said Karine Clement.
Jingyaun Fu, Marc Jan Bonder, María Carmen Cenit, Ettje Tigchelaar, Astrid Maatman, Jackie A.M. Dekens, Eelke Brandsma, Joanna Marczynska, Floris Imhann, Rinse K. Weersma, Lude Franke, Tiffany W. Poon, Ramnik J. Xavier, Dirk Gevers, Marten H. Hofker, Cisca Wijmenga, and Alexandra Zhernakova. The Gut Microbiome Contributes to a Substantial Proportion of the Variation in Blood Lipids. Circulation Research, September 2015 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306807
Saeed Shoaie, Pouyan Ghaffari, Petia Kovatcheva-Datchary, Adil Mardinoglu, Partho Sen, Estelle Pujos-Guillot, Tomas de Wouters, Catherine Juste, Salwa Rizkalla, Julien Chilloux, Lesley Hoyles, Jeremy K. Nicholson, Joel Dore, Marc E. Dumas, Karine Clement, Fredrik Bäckhed, Jens Nielsen. Quantifying Diet-Induced Metabolic Changes of the Human Gut Microbiome. Cell Metabolism, 2015; 22 (2): 320 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.07.001