More than 603 million adults and 107 million children (out of a global population of 7.5 billion) are obese, a report from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, based at the University of Washington, Seattle has said. That's 12% of all adults and the projections aren't positive. At the same time we have also seen the rise of trends such as 'healthy eating', the growth of wearable technology to track activity alongside the ever persistent diet industry. For all our efforts and money, we aren't getting slimmer so what else could be at play? Scientists from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern in Dallas have recently conducted a study using mice to understand how gut bacteria might interact with the body's circadian clock to influence weight by impacting the absorption and retention of fat.
This raises some interesting questions. Will obesity be viewed with less stigma if it is the result of your gut bacteria's predisposition for storing fat and reduce personal responsibility for obesity? Could obesity be viewed as a genuine medical condition rather than the result of poor lifestyle choices? Probably not. Our microbiome is one factor influencing our weight, alongside our genes, upbringing and lifestyle and overestimating the role it plays feeds into our species desire for quick fixes; a magic pill that promises weight loss without breaking a sweat.
The real benefit is on metabolic disorders and our ability, by better understanding how our gut bacteria influence lipid absorption, to potentially reduce their prevalence and improve their management in future. This is truly exciting.
"There is accumulating evidence," explains lead study author Yuhao Wang, a UT Soutwestern graduate student, "that certain bacteria that live in our gut might predispose us to gain weight, especially when we consume a high-fat, high-sugar 'Western-style' diet."