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Genes and gut bacteria can decide your body weight!

Posted:  Thursday, November 13, 2014

In what sounds like science fiction, the tiny microscopic microbes within the gut can decide our body weight and one can inherit them too. Researchers from King’s College London and Cornell University have found that the genetic makeup of an individual influences the inheritance of a beneficial type of microbe, which can exert a positive effect on body weight.

The most recently identified family of bacteria called 'Christensenellaceae’ seems to be abundantly present in individuals with low body weight as compared to obese individuals. This inheritable family of bacteria seems to protect mice from weight gain when transplanted. The results of the study were published in the journal Cell.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), had researchers sequencing the microbial genes in more than 1,000 faecal samples collected from 416 pairs of twins. The researchers noted similarity in the abundance of specific type of microbes among the twins sharing 100% of their genes as compared to non-identical twins.

The abundance of the bacteria from the 'Christensenellaceae’ family seemed to be influenced by the host genes. In addition, when these bacteria were transplanted in mice, they seemed to gain less weight in comparison to untreated mice suggesting that abundant amounts of these bacteria may be beneficial in preventing obesity. “Our findings show that specific groups of microbes living in our gut could be protective against obesity -- and that their abundance is influenced by our genes. The human microbiome represents an exciting new target for dietary changes and treatments aimed at combating obesity,” said the researchers.

It is generally considered that factors such as diet, lifestyle, health and environment decide the bacterial composition of the gut. However, this study unveiled an inheritance angle in deciding the abundance of certain bacterial inhabitants. This information could pave the way for personalised probiotic therapies based on genetic makeup to counter obesity and related complications.

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