Good gut bacteria could protect obese people from heart disease and diabetes …

  • Scientists have discovered a link between obesity-related diseases and levels of bacteria found in the intestines
  • They also found that gut flora with low levels of bacterial diversity functions differently to those with a variety of microorganisms
  • Results
    suggest it is not only weight gain and dietary habits that play a role
    in the development of medical conditions in obese people

Emma Innes

13:18 EST, 28 August 2013


13:18 EST, 28 August 2013

Good bacteria in the gut protect obese people from heart attacks and strokes, according to scientists.

A study has found a link between the medical problems caused by being overweight, and the bacterial species in the intestines.

People with less of these bugs are more likely to develop metabolic disorders such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Good bacteria in the gut protect obese people from heart attacks and strokes, according to scientists

Good bacteria in the gut protect obese people from heart attacks and strokes, according to scientists. People with more good bacteria are less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes

A flora with decreased bacterial richness seems to function entirely differently to the healthy variety with greater diversity.

Professor Jeroen Raes, of Vrije University in Belgium, said: ‘This is an amazing result with possibly enormous implications for the treatment and even prevention of the greatest public health issue of our time.

‘But we are not there yet. Now we need studies in which we can monitor people for a longer period.’

Metabolic conditions are becoming endemic because of people failing to exercise and eating foods that are high in sugar and fat.

It is expected obesity levels will nearly double from 400 million in 2005, to more than 700 million in 2015 – and the trend is expected to persist at least until 2030.

Professor Raes and his colleagues examined the intestinal flora of 169 obese and 123 non-obese Danes and found those with low species diversity had more metabolic abnormalities, such as increased body fat and insulin resistance.

A flora with decreased bacterial richness seems to function entirely differently to the healthy variety with greater diversity

A flora with decreased bacterial richness seems to function entirely differently to the healthy variety with greater diversity

Professor Raes said: ‘We were able to distinguish between two groups based on their intestinal flora: people with a large richness of bacterial species in their intestines, and people with less bacterial species.

‘A species-rich bacterial flora appeared to function differently compared to the poorer variety. It was surprising to see obese and non-obese people were found in both groups.’

The scientists found the group with lower species richness in the intestinal flora were more susceptible to developing obesity-related conditions and chronic inflammation.

The obese people in this group were more at risk of cardiovascular conditions than the obese people in the other group.

The results are important because they suggest it is not only weight gain and dietary habits that play a role in the development of medical complications in obese people.

In a second study published in the same journal, Professor Stanislav Ehrlich of the National Institute of Agronomic Research in Jouy-en-Josas, France, showed eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can boost gut microbes.

He looked at 49 obese or overweight individuals and found increasing consumption of high-fibre foods led to more bacterial richness and improved some clinical symptoms associated with obesity.

The finding supports previous research linking diet composition to the structure of gut microbe populations – and suggests a permanent change may be achieved through adopting an appropriate diet.

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Humans have about 3.5lbs of bacteria living in their intestines, according to a new study.

However, a quarter of people have guts which house fewer bacteria than they should do to ensure we stay healthy.

One in four people are lacking the healthy bacteria which help break down our food and maintain a healthy digestive system, scientists have discovered.

Experts looking at intestinal bacteria from 292 people in Denmark found that about a quarter of people have up to 40 per cent less gut bacteria than average.

These people are more likely to be obese and suffer from mild inflammation in the digestive tract and in the entire body.

This is known to affect metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Author of the study Oluf Pedersen, professor and scientific director at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, says we need plenty of bacteria in our guts in order to improve our health.

He compares the human gut and its bacteria with a tropical rainforest and explains that we need as much diversity as possible, and – as is the case with the natural tropical rainforests – decreasing diversity is a cause for concern.

In the study, which is published in the scientific journal Nature, Professor Pederson said: ‘It appears that the richer and more diverse the composition of our intestinal bacteria, the stronger our health.

‘The bacteria produce vital vitamins, mature and strengthen our immune system, and communicate with the many nerve cells and hormone-producing cells in the intestinal system.

‘And, not least, the bacteria produce a wealth of bioactive substances which penetrate into the bloodstream and affect our biology in countless ways.’

The comments below have not been moderated.

I’ve just finished a course of antibiotics and am having some natural yoghurt with breakfast each day to try to restore my good bacteria – still don’t feel so good – so I’m wondering whether to lash out the $30 or so for some refrigerated probiotics – I had once before and felt great soon after – hmm – maybe …


Sydney, Australia,
29/8/2013 02:22

Kefir is one of the options. Lactofermentation is another one. people have been doing it for centuries. It is easy, it is cheap, you can do it. The only thing, you have to get over your fear of bacteria instilled in you by the advertising of antibacterial products.


28/8/2013 22:54

In response to ‘Thomas. Hexham, UK’ there’s much research (finally!) into the importance of the human microbiome (our unique mix of gut/ intestinal bacteria) in relation to our health. The best ways – in my opinion – to increase the ‘good’ bacteria is to eat a balanced diet,* very* much limiting processed foods and sugars especially. Also, avoid broad spectrum antibiotics (which wipe out good bacteria and allow bad bacteria to flourish) unless absolutely necessary. Finally, find a really good broad probiotic – a good one will help to repopulate your gut with a diverse range of the ‘good’ bacteria.


28/8/2013 22:48

Does a lack of the ‘right’ bacteria cause obesity, or does obesity cause a lack of the ‘right’ bacteria?

Norfolk Dumpling

Great Yarmouth,
28/8/2013 22:37

I’d be more interested in the different enzymes present and variations in their expression over time and on specific diets. There is great difficulty isolating all the bacteria present in the gut flora whereas the enzymes they produce can be easily measured. Also, it would be necessary to know which enzymes- even different types of the same enzyme so methods of identifying these would be required.

It seems odd if they haven’t used this approach which is called metabolomics/proteomics because it is agreed for many areas of microbial ecology to be the best. It will lead to more very interesting information about the role of gut flora particularly any links to cancers in the gut and diet and other gastoenteric diseases as well as modulation of the immune response.

ken mist

28/8/2013 22:37

I got my water Kefir off ebay for 3 quid, been using it for over a year now and never looked back, cleared up my acne too


28/8/2013 22:27

The generational legacy of taking antibiotics for everything, including things they don’t help/cure.


GrowUp, United Kingdom,
28/8/2013 22:18

Non of it will replace a good diet and exercise. It’s not rocket science and it takes effort.

worried for the future

Leeds England,
28/8/2013 22:08

As someone else said – kefir. Google it. I make my own.

Brighton Boy

Brighton sometimes,
28/8/2013 22:07

Good bacteria is really relating to taking a good probiotic supplement daily and eating lots of live yogurt .


28/8/2013 22:05

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