Scientists Link Obesity to Stomach Bacteria

Pippa Stephens

According to a new study, obesity in humans could be caused by a bacterial infection and not from eating too much, exercising too little or genetics. What’s more, a diet rich in whole grains may change the pH in one’s stomach, thereby limiting the obesity-causing bacteria’s activity.

In the study, featured in the December 19, 2012, Financial Times, researchers in Shanghai identified a human bacteria—known as enterobacter—linked with obesity. They fed the bacteria to mice and compared their weight gain to that of mice who were not fed the bacteria. The mice who did not receive the bacteria did not become obese, despite consuming a high-fat diet and not exercising.

Armed with this discovery, the Shanghai team fed a morbidly obese man a special diet—consisting of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines and non-digestible carbohydrates—designed to lessen the bacterium linked to obesity. In 23 weeks, the subject lost 29 percent of his body weight.

The implications of this finding are crucial and far-reaching. Said Durham University’s Dr. David Weinkove, “If obesity is caused by bacteria, it could be infectious and picked up from some unknown environmental factor, or a parent. It might not be behavioral at all.”

Read more