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Adjusting Gut Bacteria May Treat Obesity, Diabetes

Update Date: Sep 25, 2013 04:54 PM EDT

Adjusting gut bacteria may help prevent obesity and diabetes, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a drug that appears to target specific intestinal bacteria in the guts of mice may trigger a chain reaction that could eventually lead to new treatments for obesity and diabetes in humans.

The study revealed that the tempol, an antioxidant drug that helps protect people from the effects of radiation, helped protect mice fed a high-fat diet from becoming obese.

Researchers found that mice fed a high-fat diet and tempol were significantly less obese than those that did not receive the drug.

"The two interesting findings are that the mice that received tempol didn't gain as much weight and the tempol somehow impacted the gut microbiome of these mice," researcher Andrew Patterson, assistant professor of molecular toxicology at Penn State, said in a news release. "Eventually, we hope that this can lead to a new line of therapeutics to treat obesity and diabetes."

Researchers explained that tempol reduces some members of bacteria - a genus of Lactobacillus --in the guts of mice, and when the Lactobacillus levels decreases, a bile acid --tauro-beta-muricholic acid - increases. When bile acid increases this inhibits FXR - farnesoid X receptor, which regulates the metabolism of bile acids, fats and glucose in the body.

Researchers said the findings suggest that inhibiting FXR in the intestine might potentially treat obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Researchers explained that addition to lower weight gain, mice treated with tempol had lower blood glucose and insulin levels.

In the study, researchers dissolved tempol in drinking water or delivered it directly to the mice. Researchers found that tempol reduced the weight gain for mice. They added that mice showed significant reduction in weight gain even after 16 weeks.

For further analysis, researchers placed mice that were genetically modified so that they lack FXR on the same high-fat diet. Researchers found that this group of mice was resistant to the effects of tempol and taura-beta-muricholic acid, which further strengthened the importance of FXR in mediating the anti-obesity effect.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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