Complex World of Gut Microbes Fine-Tune Body Weight

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) — Microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract form an intricate, living fabric made up of some 500 to 1000 distinct bacterial species, (in addition to other microbes). Recently, researchers have begun to untangle the subtle role these diverse life forms play in maintaining health and regulating weight.

In a new study appearing in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice, researcher Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and her colleagues at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute in collaboration with John DiBaise from the Division of Gastroenterology at the Mayo Clinic, review the role of gut microbes in nutrient absorption and energy regulation.

According to Krajmalnik-Brown, “Malnutrition may manifest as either obesity or undernutrition, problems of epidemic proportion worldwide. Microorganisms have been shown to play an important role in nutrient and energy extraction and energy regulation although the specific roles that individual and groups/teams of gut microbes play remain uncertain.”

The study outlines the growth of varied microbial populations — from birth onwards — highlighting their role in extracting energy from the diet. The composition of microbial communities is shown to vary with age, body weight, and variety of food ingested; as well as in response to bariatric surgery for obesity, use of antibiotics and many other factors.

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