New research from King’s College London suggests that components of a person’s fecal matter can dictate what makes them obese (if that is their state of health, anyway). More generally, the study says that the make-up of bacteria found in excrement can influence how the human develops and retains dangerous fats.
The large-scale study intimates that stool samples taken from more than 3,600 twins says that some bacteria are inherited, genetically. This, the researchers allude, might serve to explain why obesity is known as a hereditary condition, at least in part.
The research looked at fecal samples and compared them against six various known measures of obesity, including types of body fat and body mass index. The researchers said that they found the strongest association between bacteria and visceral fat: those participants with more diverse fecal bacteria showed lower levels of visceral fat.
Lead study author Dr. Michelle Beaumont comments on the study—from the King’s College London department of twin research and genetic epidemiology—noting, “We wanted to characterize how the microbiome changes in obese people … and see which bacteria live in the gut.” The Kings College research associate in gut microbiome and obesity goes on to say, “This study has shown a clear link between bacterial diversity in feces and markers of obesity and cardiovascular risk.”
Visceral fat, of course, can be dangerous. It is stored in the stomach/mid-section, close to vital organs like the intestines, the liver, and the pancreas. Visceral fat has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Beaumont continues, “Visceral fat is one of the fats that’s hardest to remove,” Beaumont said, adding that the amount of this fat usually is proportional to weight; [it] has a much stronger association with the microbiome than BMI.”
At the end of the day, though, the team makes sure to note that while they could find an association, they cannot say definitively—at least, not yet—that these differences in bacteria are an exact cause in extreme weight fluctuations.
Indeed, Beaumont concludes: “At the moment, we cannot say anything about causality. It could be the diet that’s influencing this.”
The results of this study have been published in the scientific journal Genome Biology.