Weight Control: It Takes a Village

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Science  12 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5699, pp. 1105
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5699.1105a

About 250 million adults worldwide are obese, a condition that puts them at great risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems. Although remarkable progress has been made in understanding the physiological and environmental factors that regulate body weight in mammals, much remains to be learned.

A new study in mice points to a surprising participant in body weight control: the community of bacteria (microbiota) that colonize the gut. Bäckhed et al. found that when they introduced the gut microbiota of normal mice into a special strain of “germ-free” mice, the recipients showed a 60% increase in total body fat within 2 weeks, even though they had eaten less and exhibited an increased metabolic rate. The microbiota appeared to promote fat storage by stimulating the synthesis of triglycerides in the liver and their deposition in adipocytes (fat cells). Based on their results, the authors hypothesize that changes in microbial ecology prompted by Western diets or differences in microbial ecology between individuals living in Western societies may affect predisposition toward obesity. — PAK

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 101, 15718 (2004).

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