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Researchers Find ‘Weight-Loss’ Bacteria in Post-Gastric Bypass Patients

Update Date: Mar 28, 2013 12:20 PM EDT

Obesity can lead to several health complications and diseases, which is why several people resort to surgeries, such as gastric bypasses, to help control their weight. A new study revealed that there might be certain types of bacteria in the stomach responsible for controlling weight and obesity. Researchers knew from previous studies that the presence of certain gut microbes in heavier people and rats was different from those found in slimmer people. The lead researcher, Lee Kaplan and colleagues believe that if these bacteria can be used in treating obesity, patients might not need invasive surgeries any more.

"Our study suggests that the specific effects of gastric bypass on the microbiota contribute to its ability to cause weight loss and that finding ways to manipulate microbial populations to mimic those effects could become a valuable new tool to address obesity," said Kaplan, the director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

The researchers studied the effects of obesity treatments in three groups of overweight mice. The first group of mice received gastric bypass surgery, the second group got a fake operation and continued their high-calorie diet, and the last group also got a fake operation but was given a low-calorie diet. The researchers found that the first group of mice had different kinds of bacteria in their stomach, and that the new bacteria were similar to those found in the stomach of thinner people. This group also had less of the bacteria often associated with obesity. These mice lost roughly 30 percent of their bodyweight after three weeks. The bacteria in the other two groups did not change although the group of mice given a low-calorie diet did lose weight as well.

Understanding the role of bacteria in controlling weight might be key in helping researchers find a new way of treating obesity. The researchers believe that if the bacteria most commonly found in thinner people and in patients post gastric bypasses could be manufactured and implanted in the stomachs of obese people, doctors might be able to treat obesity without the need of surgery.

"The ability to achieve even some of these effects without surgery would give us an entirely new way to treat the critical problem of obesity, one that could help patients unable or unwilling to have surgery," Kaplan stated.

Despite this discovery, the researchers acknowledge the fact that if the bacteria could be used, it still would not be a magic pill that would automatically treat obesity. Research into this bacteria and how it can be used is still very new.

The study was published in the Science Translational Medicine

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