Science

How fat absorption is directed by specific bacteria in the small intestine

A study in mice has revealed the role bacteria play in enhancing the body's ability to absorb fat
A study in mice has revealed the role bacteria play in enhancing the body's ability to absorb fat
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A study in mice has revealed the role bacteria play in enhancing the body's ability to absorb fat
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A study in mice has revealed the role bacteria play in enhancing the body's ability to absorb fat

An exciting new study has examined how bacteria in the small intestine help digest and absorb high-fat foods. The novel research suggests that in the future we could potentially combat obesity by inhibiting the abundance of certain bacteria that promote fat absorption.

The team of researchers from the University of Chicago set out to understand what role gut bacteria played in the digestion and absorption of fats. The study focused on the small intestine, a vastly understudied region of microbiome according to senior author Eugene B. Chang.

"Few people have focused on the microbiome of the small intestine, but this is where most vitamins and other micronutrients are digested and absorbed," explains Chang.

The study began by examining germ-free mice, with no intestinal bacteria. These mice with no gut bacteria were fed high-fat diets yet they did not gain weight. Instead they were found to be excreting the fats in their stool. A second type of mouse model was then studied. Called "specific pathogen free (SPF)," these mice were healthy but bred to harbor a large variety of regular, non-disease causing gut bacteria.

The SPF mice did gain weight on a high-fat diet and the researchers identified certain strains of bacteria increasing in the small intestine, seemingly attracted by the high-fat foods. Bacteria from the Clostridiaceae and Peptostreptococcaceae families became abundant in the small intestine while other microbes, including members of the Bifidobacteriacaea and Bacteriodacaea families, notably decreased.

"Certain dietary pressures, such as calorie-dense foods, attract specific bacterial strains into the small intestine," says Chang, "These microbes are then able to allow the host to digest this high-fat diet and absorb fats. That can even impact extra-intestinal organs such as the pancreas."

This is one of the first studies to elucidate how bacteria in the small intestine can directly regulate the absorption of fats. It is still early stages for the research and so far it has only been established in mouse models, but it does suggest small intestine bacteria could play a very important role in the development of obesity.

"Our results suggest that maybe we could use pre- or probiotics or even develop post-biotics (bacterial-derived compounds or metabolites) to enhance nutrient uptake for people with malabsorption disorders, such as Crohn's disease, or we could test novel ways to decrease obesity," notes lead author of the study Kristina Martinez-Guryn.

The study was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Source: University of Chicago via Eurekalert

1 comment
Martin Winlow
Yes... except that all the latest research is telling us what some have known all along, that, rather counter-intuitively, it is not eating fat that makes us fat - eg the work done by prof John Yudkin in the 70’s (sugar - "Pure, White, and Deadly”) work that, at the hands of the sugar industry, utterly unfairly cost him his reputation. Excessive fat consumption may cause other negative health issues eg high cholesterol and the cardio-vascular implications of that, but this research won't help with that necessarily. Everything that most consumers 'know' about obesity has been foisted on us by moronic successive governments (and/or corrupt ones) and the food industry, specifically the sugar industry. The *real* culprit is sugar and other highly processed (ie high added value = more profit) simple carbohydrates which the body turns into stored body fat at the drop of a hat… and causes diabetes in the process… Every time you take a hit of sugar, the pancreas - not designed to deal with this modern problem (as hunter/gathers we would rarely enjoy a 'sugar rush’) - generates a dose of insulin to control the effects of that high blood/sugar level - doing this day in and day out for 50 years puts too much stress on the system and eventually it simply packs up. Just have a read of the contents of your ‘healthy’ SpecialX (or whatever) breakfast cereal - sugar and salt abound! There will be a reckoning for the sugar industry similar to the tobacco industry one, hopefully sooner rather than later. Wake up and stop poisoning yourselves (not to mention your children)… and rotting your teeth at the same time. Rocket science it isn’t.
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