Digestive Bacteria May Point to Later Overweight

March 12, 2008

Alterations in bacteria levels in the gut may play a role in childhood obesity, according to research published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Alterations in bacteria levels in the gut may play a role in childhood obesity, according to research published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Marko Kalliomaki, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Turku in Turku, Finland, and colleagues analyzed data from 25 overweight and obese children who were part of a prospective cohort and were matched to 24 normal-weight children on factors such as gestational age and body mass index at birth, duration of breast-feeding, antibiotic exposure and atopic diseases. Their gut microbiota had been analyzed at the ages of 6 months and 12 months.

Normal-weight children had higher bifidobacterial numbers, as assessed by fluorescent in situ hybridization with flow cytometry, with a median of 2.19 x 109 cells per gram, compared to 1.20 x 109 cells per gram in overweight children. However, overweight children had more Staphylococcus aureus (0.64 x 106 cells per gram) than normal-weight children (0.27 x 106 cells per gram), the report indicates.

"Taken together, a physically active lifestyle and avoidance of excessive energy intake lay the foundation for the prevention of obesity. Our results, however, indicate that changes in the gut microbiota may be linked not only to the development of allergy but also to other chronic inflammatory conditions common in the Western world, among them obesity, thus extending the concept of the hygiene hypothesis. Exploring and understanding these mechanisms of action thoroughly may offer a new resort in the fight against the alarming pandemic of obesity," the authors write.

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