Many people subscribe to the idea, that the problem with fat people, is that they just don’t move enough i.e. they are lazy.
The reality, moving a whole lot of extra kilograms around is hard work, so someone with extra pounds is more likely to be a couch potato. But it is increasingly clear, being a couch potato, does not make you fat. That said, whether you are fat or thin, young or old, being a couch potato can never be described as a health move, so don’t say I said it was okay not to move. I said, your weight is probably not related to YOUR laziness.
But your weight may still be related to laziness levels….. not yours, but that of your “friends” – the trillion odd bacteria camped out in your gut.
Gut bacteria eat everything
Most of these dinner guests are good guys - tasked with helping us get the FULL nutritional value from what we’ve eaten.
For years, we’ve known gut bacteria LOVE carbohydrate dinners, especially, the undigestible bits that we refer to as fibre. Deep in the colon, they ferment these undigested food fragments, turning them into energy for themselves, nutrients for you and a little gas for the neighbourhood.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina have discovered gut bacteria are not only tucking into carbs, they are also involved in digesting fats. And who is living in the gut, is influencing how well dietary fat is absorbed from the intestine.
Okay, to be fair, this University of North Carolina work was done on zebrafish, not humans.
But, since the job of gut bacteria is to assist in the breakdown of food – what applies to the bacteria living in the guts of zebra fish, is likely to hold true for human bacteria too.
Firmicutes are the fat extractors
The research team fed zebrafish, a variety of colourfully labelled fatty acids, while manipulating their gut microflora and watched where the fluorescent dye went. This is pretty easy to do in zebrafish, because they are see through, when they are young.
When the zebrafish had lots of Firmicutes bacteria in their bellies, they were able to absorb lots of fat. When Firmicutes were in short supply, the processing of the fatty acids was a whole lot less efficient.
Exactly how many Firmicutes were present in the gut of the zebrafish at any given time, was dependent on what the fish were routinely having for dinner.
Fat people don’t have lazy bugs
Now Firmicutes are a group of bacteria that are found in human guts too. In fact, the Firmicutes and Bacteroides are the dominant groups of bacteria in the human gut.
So we all have them, but people who are obese, seem to have way more of them than skinny bean poles. Many scientists, believe the altered ratios of gut bacteria, are contributing to weight troubles.
And this research gives a clue as to how Firmicutes bacteria could be causing energy imbalances. These little guys are super efficient little bacteria, extracting all the “juice” out of dinner, leading to better food absorption and in the process, potentially gifting their host, with a few MORE CALORIES.
Cheating on the calorie maths
There is definitely a lot more to calorie maths than the simple formula…
Calories in = calories out
This simple formula does not take into account the role gut bacteria are playing in the body’s energetic.
Beating obesity requires better body chemistry.Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Absorption and Metabolism of Fatty Acids in the Zebrafish. Cell Host & Microbe (2012) 12 (3): 277. Ivana Semova, Juliana D. Carten, Jesse Stombaugh, Lantz C. Mackey, Rob Knight, Steven A. Farber, John F. Rawls.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind those extra fat layers ?
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