Intestinal Bacteria: A Possible Basis For Obesity Treatments

Could there be a relationship between intestinal bacteria and obesity treatments? Read today's article to find out.
Intestinal Bacteria: A Possible Basis For Obesity Treatments

Last update: 01 April, 2021

Human beings contain an enormous amount of bacteria in their bodies that help them to carry out numerous functions, such as digestion. Some also protect us from other bacteria that are capable of causing disease. Among them are intestinal bacteria. Today, we want to take a closer look at the possible relationship between intestinal bacteria and obesity treatments.

Intestinal bacteria make up the intestinal microbiota. This is a set of microorganisms that live permanently in our digestive tract. It consists mostly of bacteria, but there can also be viruses and fungi.

This intestinal microbiota makes up almost 3.3 pounds of our weight. According to scientists, these bacteria fulfill a multitude of functions. That’s because they facilitate part of the metabolic reactions we need in order to live. At the same time, they also stimulate the immune system.

The role of these intestinal bacteria in aspects such as obesity is currently under investigation. In this article, we’ll explain the latest on this subject and why it may be a factor in obesity treatments.

What’s the role of gut bacteria?

As we’ve already mentioned, intestinal bacteria are microorganisms present in our digestive tract. They consist of different species and, moreover, in each person, there’s a different intestinal microbiota.

Scientists have studied these differences between people to demonstrate what functions these bacteria fulfill in our body. They’ve found that having a healthy microbiota contributes to maintaining a balance throughout the body.

It seems that intestinal bacteria are determinant in metabolism. Apparently, they help regulate appetite and weight, and also the inflammatory process that’s associated with obesity. They may even play an important role in stress control.

For example, it’s been seen that people in good health have many bacteria of the genus Clostridium. However, those who have a problem in their immune system have a much lower number of these bacteria.

A digital representation of intestinal bacteria.
The intestinal bacteria of the microbiota inhabit the human digestive tract permanently.

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Role in illnesses

Recent studies point to the fact that these intestinal bacteria may play an important role in certain diseases. For example, as they participate in glucose metabolism, they could have to do with diabetes.

They could even have to do with different cardiovascular diseases. One of the most relevant data is that, in obese people, variations in intestinal flora have been detected.

This represents one of the most relevant research fronts, due to the high incidence of obesity in the current population. According to estimates, around 650 million people are obese worldwide.

The relationship between the brain and gut bacteria.
Intestinal bacteria communicate with the brain and stimulate or reduce appetite.

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How can gut bacteria be used in obesity treatments?

When there’s an imbalance in the amount of gut bacteria, different changes can occur. Firstly, it seems that many obese people have bacteria that are able to utilize much more of the energy present in certain foods.

That is, they absorb more nutrients than others. Therefore, in the end, caloric intake is higher than in thinner people, who can’t utilize these nutrients. Other changes that vary according to the intestinal bacteria present in the obese individual are:

  • Decreased production of anti-inflammatory molecules
  • A lack of good regulation of appetite or bowel habits
  • A greater accumulation of fats

All these variations are still undergoing investigation. However, they represent a large open front for research. This is because, if they really play a role in weight management, they could be the basis for future obesity treatments.

Therefore, the treatment would consist of modifying the proportion of intestinal bacteria. In this way, the aim would be to find the balance of healthy and slim people. This could be done by means of certain probiotics, or even with stool transplants.

Although it may seem strange, stool transplants are already used to treat certain infections. They help to replace the bacterial flora present in the intestines.

In conclusion, all this is still under investigation, but it’s an important advance for medicine.

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