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Obesity could be caused by bacteria: French study
A French study suggests obesity is not caused by lack of exercise and poor diet, but by levels of certain bacteria in the gut. Photo: Tobyotter/Flickr

Obesity could be caused by bacteria: French study

Published: 29 Aug 2013 17:35 GMT+02:00

Obesity and the medical problems it causes could be linked to a lack of good bacteria in the gut according to findings of a new study in France.

Many believe obesity is caused by nothing other than poor diet and lack of exercise but the findings of the latest French-Danish study by the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA), based in Paris point to a low count of a certain kind of "good" bacteria in the gut as another possible cause.

The study, carried out in both France and Denmark and published in scientific journal Nature, found a link between obesity and people with a low number of good bacteria present in their intestinal flora. Good bacteria are those which help digest food and fight against bad bacteria. People with a lower bacteria count were shown to be more susceptible to becoming obese.

“If you have less good bacteria, the risk of developing serious illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular problems is a lot higher” said Professor Dusko Erlich, the coordinator of the study.

Erlich added that the results were important because “we think that if we manage to replace these bacteria, it could help prevent excessive weight gain.” However, he admits that scientists first need to learn “how to cultivate the bacteria, which we are unable to do right now.”

Researchers studied 123 non–obese and 169 obese Danish people. They discovered that amongst the subjects studied, the people who had a greater presence of good bacteria in their intestines, had a greater resistance diseases like diabetes.

They also found that the obese people with less bacteria put on more weight than obese people with more intestinal bacteria.

Obesity is a major issue for Western countries, who are undertaking new studies to tackle the problem. In 2005 it was estimated that 500 million people were obese and this number looks set to rise to 700 million by 2015, reported French TV station Europe 1.

In a second study published in the same journal, researchers found that a diet rich in fibre and fruit and vegetables followed over a course of 12 weeks could significantly improve intestinal flora and increase the good bacteria in the gut, thus reducing some health complications linked to obesity.

This supports previous research showing that changes to diet can have direct effects on bacteria in the gut.

by Naomi Firsht

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