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BBC News has reported this morning a story about Akkermansia muciniphila, a bacteria found to dramatically alter the health of obese mice. This species (see Probiotics Learning Lab for more glossary terms) of bacteria seemingly has the potential to reverse obesity and Type-2 diabetes. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrated that a broth containing this A. muciniphila bacteria, modified the health of obese rodents. The bacteria is thought to alter the gut wall lining and to affect the way in which food is absorbed.
The study was conducted in Belgium at the Catholic university of Louvain, where researchers found that although this species of bacteria, A. muciniphila, is thought to normally make up 3-5% of gut bacteria, obese subjects have lower levels of this bacteria. The bacteria was administered to mice who were 2 to 3 times fatter than their lean counterparts. Although the fatter mice remained bigger than the lean mice, they proceeded to lose about half of their extra body weight, having seen no other changes to their diet. The larger mice, after being given this species of bacteria, were also found to have lower levels of insulin resistance; a key symptom of Type-2 diabetes.
Professor Patrice Cani said that this was a 'first step' towards one day using bacteria in the prevention and/or treatment of obesity and Type-2 diabetes, and told the BBC that some form of bacteria-based therapy would be used 'in the near future'.
Large studies have in the past confirmed that lean and obese people have very different types, and numbers, of bacteria in the gut. Most of the studies looking at specific strains of bacteria have been conducted in animal models, and we would look forward to seeing human clinical trials in the area of weight loss, obesity, and gut bacteria. However, meanwhile this research remains a very interesting insight into the importance of gut bacteria!
Find out more about the research into gut bacteria and weight over in the Probiotics Learning Lab.