(NaturalNews) With figures showing one in three Americans are officially considered obese, new gut health research may reveal how obesity takes hold and pave the way to natural cures.
This month's edition of the journal Science published the first study to confirm that a healthy microbial balance in the gut actually effects whether or not a person maintains a healthy weight and metabolism, not the other way around. Having the proper gastrointestinal equilibrium has been shown to play a role in whether or not someone becomes obese or falls prey to related diseases, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
Study participants included four female pairs of identical twins comprised of one clinically obese twin and one lean twin each. Using a representative stool sample from each pair, researchers were able to transplant cultures of the twins' gut bacteria into the 'blank slate' intestines of test mice. Over time, each mouse began to physically resemble its human counterpart.
Even though all the mice were put on the same low-fat diet, researchers found that those with gut microbiomes transplanted from obese women began to get fat anyway, while the mice with gut flora transplanted from the lean women were able to stay lean. The lean mice were also better equipped to break down sugars more quickly without packing on pounds. When obese mice were later introduced to the flora of lean mice, they were also able to lose weight.
The study is groundbreaking in that previous research appears to have mostly focused on the idea that being obese negatively impacted gut health rather than realizing that improper gut health could actually drive obesity. As NaturalNews has previously reported, while diet can affect gut flora composition, it has been hypothesized that the gut flora itself can determine what a person decides to eat in the first place. Studies have shown that these bacteria can actually send chemical 'messages' to the brain that cause cravings for both healthy and not-so-healthy foods. Certain microbial imbalances could contribute to eating more sugar, for example. In turn, a high-fat diet has been found to increase negative gut bacteria growth as well.
Scientists have also discovered that dysfunctional gut flora in infants can predict whether or not a child will become obese later in life. A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that certain bad bacteria colonizing the gut early in life could trigger systematic inflammation that later influences many chronic inflammatory conditions, including obesity. Other studies have shown that these tiny bacteria play a pivotal role in converting a person's nutrients into energy.
The importance of digestive health and proper levels of gut-friendly bacteria cannot be overstated. A person's gastrointestinal tract is a prominent part of nutrient absorption and healthy immune system function. The LA Times reports, "Researchers increasingly suspect that preservatives and antibiotics in food and medicine, along with the widespread adoption of antibacterial cleaners, have reshaped the population of the average gut in ways that may have set off changes in the metabolism, immune system and hormone balance of large groups of people, resulting in weight gain."
Disease-fighting probiotics, those that foster the growth of good gut bacteria, are just as key to maintaining a healthy body weight as proper diet and regular exercise. Not only do probiotics enhance colon function and boost immunity, but they have also been found to relieve all manner of gut inflammations, including irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease and ulcers.
When searching for a good probiotic, be sure to choose one that has a high count of live cultures and strain diversity. Choosing an enteric coated formula will ensure the probiotics pass through the stomach's digestive juices to be properly delivered to the intestines.
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