This interesting New York Times feature examines the emerging research on infectobesity -- the theory that microbes and viruses may be responsible for at least some instances of obesity.
If these are indeed a relevant factor, it could potentially change the way obesity is generally regarded.
One Washington University professor likened the functioning of gut microflora in our bodies to that of an ant farm that works together as an intelligence to perform an array of functions we're unable to manage on our own.
One of those chores includes extracting calories from the foods we eat, so the microflora in your gut may play a key role in obesity. While the field is still relatively new, a variety of studies -- including experiments in changing the gut microflora of mice -- indicate that such microbes can strongly affect metabolism.
Another area of research examines viruses and infections as a potential cause of obesity. Certain viruses may actually cause weight gain, rather than the wasting away typically associated with disease.Nearly a third of the American public is obese, and obesity may account for 300,000 deaths a year. It has been linked to diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers.
Most people don't realize the trillions of bacteria in your gut outnumber the cells of your body by a factor of 10 to 1. This is one of the reasons they are such a major influence on your health. It is encouraging to see such a major extended piece in the New York Times reviewing this important topic.
I must admit it was somewhat surprising to read about the association between the bacteria and obesity as it seems to come from out of left field, totally unexpected. If this association is true, though, it is important as obesity is the second most common preventable cause of death, after smoking, and is a multi-faceted disease requiring a variety of treatment measures to tame.
Fortunately, positively influencing the bacteria growing in your body is relatively easy. One of the most important steps you can take is to stop consuming sugary foods, which feed the bad bacteria that promote disease.
This is one of many reasons I highly recommend reducing, with the plan of eliminating, sugars and most grains from your diet. When you eat a healthy diet that is low in sugars and processed foods one of the major benefits is that it causes the good bacteria in your gut to flourish and build up a major defense against the bad bacteria getting a foothold on your health.
This is particularly true for anaerobic bacteria, yeast, fungi and many other parasites.
The nutritional root of many of our diseases are related to an optimized balance of intestinal bacteria. That is why one of the first suggestions I make to a new patient is to take a high-quality probiotic that promotes the good bacteria.
Following the proper food choices will help shift the bacteria, but, just like your lawn, it is wise to "reseed" areas that have become depleted after you consume sugar or take antibiotics.
However, it's hard to find a good probiotic. You may find a good one with the help of an expert at your local health food store. If you don't have a resource, however, you may want to consider Rebalanced Probiotic Plus, now offered in my Web store.
However, do bear in mind that gut microflora, while an interesting and critical factor in your health, are only one part of the multi-step approach that should be used to combat obesity.