It is well known that an unhealthy diet and obesity can affect the composition of intestinal flora. However, findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) show that modification of the gut flora can have positive effects on obesity, inflammation and diabetes.
Bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila is one of the normal species present in human guts. It resides in the mucus layer and degrades mucin. It is present in large numbers in humans and animals that are not overweight. However, obesity and inflammation lead to much smaller numbers of these microorganisms.
Alteration of intestinal flora may help in preventing obesity
Researchers from Belgium decided to study if the addition of these bacteria to the diet influences the development of obesity. They fed bacteria to the mice on different diets. With the normal diet, no significant changes were observed. However, when mice were kept on the high-fat diet that leads to obesity, administration of Akkermansia muciniphila resulted in the reduction in fat development and associated metabolic problems, even when the food intake remained the same.
An endocannabinoids level increase was also observed in these mice. Endocannabinoids keep the blood level of glucose in check and thus prevent the development of diabetes. The strengthening of the intestinal barrier function was observed as well.
Although the research was conducted on mice, there are good reasons to believe that eventually these results can be used to prevent obesity in humans. This particular bacterial species exists in both human and mice and influence the rate of fat accumulation in the same way. The results provide the rationale for the development of human treatment aimed at preventing and treating obesity and obesity-related metabolic problems.
Overweight people have a significantly reduced amount of Akkermansia muciniphila bacteria in their guts. The artificial addition of these bacteria to the diet of mice prevents the accumulation of fat in their bodies. Results can be used to develop treatments for the prevention of obesity in humans.
A. Everard, C. Belzer, L. Geurts, et al. (13 May 2013) Cross-talk between Akkermansia muciniphila and intestinal epithelium controls diet-induced obesity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; early online publication.