by Laymah Cisco
We’ve all heard that eating wrongly or eating too much is responsible for obesity. However, a new study shows that gut bacteria could be responsible for decreasing brown fat activities in our bodies. Brown fat is one of two types of adipose tissue (fat) in the human body, and its function is to burn calories. White fat is the second type of fat which resides around the waist and buttocks and stores calories. The amount of brown and white fat found in people varies depending on what group they fall under. According to a recent discovery, “healthy women have the most brown fat, while overweight adult men have the least” (Paddock).
The bacteria referred to earlier are trillions of bacteria in our gut needed to digest food and make vitamins. In a series of experiments, regular mice with normal gut bacteria were compared to bacteria-free mice. The bacteria-free mice were found to have more active brown fat. It was also discovered that large-intestine bacteria seemed to be associated with gender differences in weight where the male mice were fatter than the females. However, in the bacteria-free mice, there were no differences found. Researchers have proposed a theory stating:
[G]ut bacteria contribute to host energy metabolism by producing short chain fatty acids through the fermentation of carbohydrates that would remain undigested if they weren’t present. When the bacteria are not there, the short chain fatty acids are not produced, and this disrupts a number of metabolic processes, thereby triggering calorie burning (lipolysis activity) in both the brown fat and the liver. (Paddock)
What this simply means is that because white fat isn’t present to protectively store away calories, they are exposed to brown fat’s calorie-burning function. This knowledge of the absence of gut bacteria could aid in the prevention of obesity in a similar process to that of the given experiments. The assumption is always that eating too much or eating the wrong things cause a gain in weight. I found this article so fascinating because it goes beyond the obvious of what we eat is what makes us fat. It dives into what’s really responsible for the fat. I wonder what it would be like for people to function purely on brown fat? Could we survive on it?
Catharine Paddock PhD. (2012, February 16). “Gut Bacteria May Have Role In Obesity.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ 241725.php.>