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Study links bacteria in gut to size of a "gut"


Right now there's a sizable colony of microbes roaming around in your gut and it may surprise you to learn that many of those microbes aren't harmful to your health.

But if antibiotics, diet or other lifestyle changes cause this intestinal bacteria population to become imbalanced, then the result could be excessive weight gain, elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance, according to findings recently published in Science.

In the study, researchers from Emory University examined mice deficient in TLR-5, a gene that helps cells sense the presence of bacteria. They found:

TLR5-deficient mice are about 20 percent heavier than regular mice and have elevated triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure. They also have mildly elevated blood sugar, increased production of insulin [and] tended to consume about 10 percent more food than their regular relatives. When their food was restricted they lost weight but still had a decreased response to insulin. When fed a high-fat diet, TLR5-deficient mice gained more weight than regular mice and, moreover, developed full-blown diabetes and fatty liver disease.

In addition to highlighting how factors beyond a sedentary lifestyle and the abundance of low-cost high-calorie foods may contribute to the obesity epidemic, the study shows the importance of better understanding the complex community of microbes inhabiting our insides.

Photo by IRRI Images

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