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The Microbiome of Obesity

The makeup of the gut microbiome has been thought to influence weight and obesity, and researchers from the Catholic University of Louvain found that one member of the gut microbiota, Akkermansia muciniphila, appears to be inversely related to obesity and metabolic disorders in rodents.

The researchers, led by Patrice Cani, fed live or heat-killed A. muciniphila to mice given a high-fat diet and subsequently examined their gut barriers, glucose homeostasis, and adipose tissue metabolism. As they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, mice given live A. muciniphila gain less weight on the high-fat diet than mice given dead bacteria and had a better metabolic profile.

Further, the researchers note that there is likely cross-talk between A. muciniphila and its host. As Ed Yong writes at Not Exactly Rocket Science, A. muciniphila eats the mucus layer coating the intestines and prevents that layer from becoming smaller, as it usually does in mice as they gain weight. "By shoring up the mucus, it could prevent other microbes from inflaming the gut and triggering other changes that cause disease," Yong writes.

"Akkermansia might eventually help us to control our weight or reduce the risk of diabetes, but that will take a lot more research. This study was done in mice, and Cani wants to check that the same relationships happen in the human gut," he adds.

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