The Bacteria in Your Gut Might Make You Fat
August 31, 2006
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.