What is a microbiome you ask and why I should I care about it? Also what does this have to do with weight gain? The microbiome are the communities of microorganisms, literally trillions, that live inside the human body. Many people don’t realize that besides things like organs, blood, hormones…etc., the body also contains trillions of little microorganisms that live inside it and have a significant impact on it. These are most often single-celled organisms belonging to the Archaea kingdom. Archaea are prokaryotes and have no cell nucleus or organelles within themselves. There are however some bacteria as well. All these are generally considered harmless and usually do not cause disease (except for some rare circumstances). Many of them can aid the human body in a variety of functions, but recent changes in the human environment have also altered some aspect of the microbiome for the worse. Recent research indicates that some of the microorganisms can play a significant role in how a person gains weight.
Dr. Ilseung Cho, of the NYU School of Medicine, does research into what role the gut microbiome plays in various things, including obesity (and unhealthy weight gain). He summarizes his research in this way: “Obesity is a significant health problem that is facing the United States, with the majority of the population being either overweight or obese. Though the deterioration of diet and exercise has certainly contributed to this problem, we believe that alterations in the gut microbiome also play a significant role. It is a well-known fact that subtherapeutic antibiotics are regularly given to various animals in the agricultural industry to promote growth. Those antibiotics enter the foodstream and may promote similar effects in humans. We are actively developing a murine model to demonstrate that exposure to low-dose antibiotics can alter weight gain and body composition.”
There are numerous teams in the world working on the issues relating to the gut microbiome, obesity and weight gain. For example research done at the University of Chicago, led by Dr. Yang Xin-Fu, found that regulation of the microbiome could be one of the keys to regulating obesity and weight gain. They found that regulating certain bacteria in the stomach could prevent the onset of obesity and weight gain. However the exact bacteria that could help in this are yet to be established and further research needs to be done. There are other teams working on unraveling all this, but the research is so new at the moment, that most of the bacteria discovered through it are still to be named. So maybe in the future, one of the ways to combat obesity and unhealthy weight gain will be through vaccines and antibiotics.
Dr. Ilseung Cho on obesity and weight gain: