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Certain Bacteria may make People Fat

Germs that make their home in the gut may cause obesity and a range of health-threatening symptoms that go along with it, a new research shows.

Researchers reported that certain bacteria cause inflammation that can affect appetite as well as inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn’s disease and colitis. In other words, the germs make you overeat, Dr. Andrew Gewirtz of Emory University in Atlanta and his colleagues reported.

Dr. Gewirtz says that previous research has suggested that bacteria can influence how well energy is absorbed from food, but these findings demonstrate that intestinal bacteria can actually influence appetite. “The obesity epidemic is driven by people eating too much, but why are people eating more?” he asks.

Dr. Gewirtz’s research suggests that bacteria may play a role—perhaps a population of bacteria that thrive because other, competing organisms have been wiped out by antibiotics, access to clean water, and other factors of modern life. Dr. Gewirtz’s team, who stumbled on their findings while studying mice that had colitis, is now working to see if they can identify the microorganisms involved. They are also working to see if obese people have unique patterns of gut bacteria.

Scientists know that hundreds of species of bacteria live in the gut and an average person carries about 5 pounds (2 kg) worth. Chinese scientists also reportedin Nature that they found 1,000 different species in human intestines.

So, could obesity be treated by taking an antibiotic to wipe out the offending germs that are making people overeat? “It is very hard to replace the bacteria that you have,” Dr. Gewirtz said. Studies already show it is difficult to treat conditions like Crohn’s disease, even with months of antibiotics.

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