Obesity is a growing health concern worldwide, with one in three Americans now considered obese. Plenty of information is known about weight management, the risks of carrying extra weight and various treatments for weight loss, such as gastric bypass surgery or lap band surgery.  But now, researchers are gaining new insights into the causes of weight gain and obesity. Recent studies show a correlation between obesity and bacteria found in the gut; could microbes be making us fat?

Obesity Linked to Microbes

A US study recently published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reveals individuals with high concentrations of hydrogen and methane gases in their breath are more likely to have a higher percentage of body fat or a higher body mass index (BMI).

The large scale study examined the breath content of 792 people. The findings revealed an association between gas production and body weight, a correlation that could prove to be critical in further understanding one of the many causes of obesity.

The content of the participants breath was analyzed and classified into one of four categories; normal breath content, higher concentrations of methane, higher levels of hydrogen, or higher levels of both gases. Interestingly, those participants who tested positive for high concentrations of both gases also had a significantly higher percentage of body fat.

Methanobevibacter smithii, is a predominant microorganism found in the gut. It affects the efficiency of digestion of complex sugars, meaning it impacts the amount of calories harvest from food that is consumed. These microorganisms scavenge hydrogen from other microbes within the gut, utilizing the hydrogen to make hydrogen rich methane. The methane is released during the normal breathing process. These conditions promote hydrogen-producing bacteria to thrive and withdraw nutrients from digesting food more efficiently and thus garnering more calories from consumed food. Over time this may contribute to weight gain, the studies researchers theorize.

When “M. smithii — becomes overabundant, it may alter this balance in a way that causes someone to be more likely to gain weight,” said lead author Ruchi Mathur, MD, director of the Diabetes Outpatient Treatment and Education Center in the Division of Endocrinology at Cedars-Sinai.

Funding provided by the American Diabetes Association will allow for an ongoing study to confirm the link between M. smithii, obesity and pre-diabetic conditions. The study will examine how efficiently participants digest their consumed food and extract calories with the presence of M. smithi vs. the efficiency after the microorganism has eliminated with a specific course of antibiotics.

M. smithii Linked to Weight Gain in Rats

A 2012 study which looked at the relationship between M. smithii and diet induced weight gain in rats, also revealed that the level and extent of M. smithii colonization is predictive of degree of weight gain in rats.

This new research shows a strong connection between microorganisms living in the gut and obesity. While further research is needed, this information does provide fresh insight into one of the many causes of obesity. However, regardless of the cause, struggling with obesity or to lose weight is a difficult challenge. If you are struggling to lose weight, contact us today to determine if weight loss surgery could be the right solution for you. Weight loss surgery, such as gastric band surgery or gastric bypass surgery, can get you on the right path to losing weight. For more information about our wide range of weight loss surgery procedures, contact us today.