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Microbial weight loss solution possible?

A study at Harvard university has found a possible method which utilizes a change in intestinal microbes to induce rapid loss of weight in mice.

Researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts general Hospital have collaborated on new research, which has found that a change in microbes in the intestines of mice can lead to dramatic weight loss.

The microbes in question are natural intestinal microbes which live in the mice, but which underwent drastic changes following gastric bypass surgery. When those microbes were then transferred to sterile mice, the result was a dramatic weight loss and capacity to maintain a lower amount of body fat.


The mice were able to lose about 20% of the weight they would have lost if they underwent surgery, according to Peter Turnbaugh, one of the senior authors of the paper. It’s possible the effect could be even more dramatic however, as the mice weren’t on fatty diet prior to the introduction of the microbes. Had the mice already been overweight, the effect could have been very different.


No cheese for you!


"Our study suggests that the specific effects of gastric bypass on the microbiota contribute to its ability to cause weight loss and that finding ways to manipulate microbial populations to mimic those effects could become a valuable new tool to address obesity," said Lee Kaplan, the papers other senior author.


Turnbaugh warned that though the results are exciting, there’s still plenty of research to be done on how the process works. They still don’t know what the link is between the change in microbes and the effect of weight loss and it may be years before human testing can begin. What they do know is that post-surgery, certain microbes dominated the intestinal microbial community and certain kinds of short-chain fatty acids became abundant. This is a good base for continued research, says Turnbaugh


Even then, this will likely be a drastic solution to weight problems, suitable perhaps only for helping those who are extremely overweight to avoid surgery. Changing your entire intestinal balance is not a solution for losing the extra ten pounds you need to look good at the beach.

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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