(NaturalNews) The key to shedding those excess pounds and achieving that lean figure you have always dreamed about could be as simple as eating more bacteria. A new study out of Washington University in St. Louis has found that maintaining healthy and balanced gut bacteria -- that is, the beneficial microbes that naturally populate your intestinal tract -- may help prevent weight gain and actually fight obesity, which now plagues more than one-third of all Americans.
Dr. Jeffrey Gordon and his colleagues made this important discovery after observing the effects of intestinal germs implanted into several groups of pathogen-free mice. WU graduate student Vanessa Ridaura, who worked alongside Dr. Gordon for the study, took gut bacteria from four pairs of twins, each of which included both an obese and a lean sibling. One pair of the twins was also identical, which was meant to rule out any possibility that weight differences might somehow be inherited.
The team transplanted gut bacteria from these eight individuals into the intestines of young mice, which were specifically bred to lack their own natural bacteria, and watched for variations in how these mice developed over time. In the end, it was noted that the mice who received gut bacteria from the obese individuals tended to not only gain more weight than the other mice but also undergo some serious metabolic changes that left them significantly more unhealthy.
What helped further prove that the bacterial source made all the difference was the fact that all the mice ate the same amount of food, and yet only those implanted with the obese bacteria experienced weight gain and health deterioration. The reason, say experts, is that obese people tend to harbor a less diverse array of beneficial bacteria in their guts, while leaner people possess the bacterial variations and balance necessary to maintain a proper and healthy weight.
Exposing obese individuals to new bacterial compositions could help them slim down
But the findings do not stop here. After performing this first set of experiments, the team decided to put mice from both the lean and obese groups into cages with one another to observe how cross-exposure to different bacterial profiles might affect the mice's health and weight. For those who are unaware, mice tend to eat feces, which contain intestinal bugs and other markers of gut composition.
Not surprisingly, this grouping of the mice and the resultant exposure to varying bacterial profiles led to a phenomenon called bacterial swapping, in which bacteria from each of the mice comingled with one another to create new bacterial profiles. But what came as a surprise was the fact that bacteria from the lean mice invaded the intestines of the obese mice, triggering positive changes in both weight and metabolism.
"It was almost as if there were potential job vacancies," explained Dr. Gordon about the apparently deficient bacterial profiles of the obese mice. At the same time, the positive changes observed in the obese mice were not reciprocal in the lean mice, meaning the introduction of bacteria from the obese mice did not result in any negative changes in the lean mice.
According to Michael Fischbach from the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study but spoke to The New York Times about it, these findings provide "the clearest evidence to date that gut bacteria can help cause obesity." Adding to this sentiment, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier from Harvard Medical School told reporters that the findings, which were recently published in the journal Science, are "pretty striking."
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