Researchers say an association between the microbiome and obesity suggests altering the population of bacteria in the gut could be employed as part of a new method for treating obesity, including fecal transplants. Photo by kurhan/Shutterstock
LONDON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Researchers linked bacteria in feces with the buildup of visceral abnominal fat, offering further evidence of the microbiome's role in the development of obesity and suggesting possible treatment for the condition.
Heritable bacteria in the gut differ between obese and normal weight people, and those with more diverse types of bacteria tended to have lower levels of visceral fat, researchers at King's College London report in a study published in the journal Genome Biology.
Other studies have linked the microbiome to obesity, with clinical trials testing the use of fecal transplants from normal weight donors for obesity treatment already underway.
The new research underlines the theory of gut bacteria's influence on weight, though researchers at King's College suggest more study is needed to fully understand the influence and how it can be harnessed for treatment.
"There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that gut bacteria may play a role in obesity, and a number of studies are now exploring this in more detail," Dr. Jordana Bell, a researcher at KCL's department of twin research and genetic epidemiology, said in a press release. "Further scientific investigation is needed to understand how precisely our gut microbes can influence human health, and if interventions such as faecal transplants can have safe, beneficial and effective impacts on this process."
For the new study, researchers analyzed stool samples from 1,313 twins participating in the TwinsUK cohort, extracting DNA and fecal microbes from the samples for analysis.
After comparing microbial and DNA information with six measures of obesity, the researchers found strong links to visceral fat, which is body fat stored in the abdominal cavity near internal organs. The findings were validated using two other population-based studies and another dataset from the same cohort, researchers report.
Although the link between gut bacteria and visceral fat requires further research for a better understanding of how one affects the other, the researchers say the influence may be useful for determining better obesity treatments.
"This study has shown a clear link between bacterial diversity in feces and markers of obesity and cardiovascular risk, particularly for visceral fat," said Dr. Michelle Beaumont, lead author of the study. "However, as this was an observational study we cannot say precisely how communities of bacteria in the gut might influence the storage of fat in the body, or whether a different mechanism is involved in weight gain."