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Bad Intestinal Flora Could Be an Obesity Villain

June 3, 2010

Bacteria

In the AlterNet article titled “Poop is the most important indicator of your health,” author Anneli Rufus learns about the human intestine from Mitch Klaper, and passes the knowledge on to us. The vegan physician rhapsodizes over the exquisite functionality of the human intestine, and describes the fasting regime he has developed, which may not be the right thing for growing children, but is interesting nonetheless.

Mainly, Klaper hopes to lead us to greater cooperation with our intestinal flora. We need those little organisms, but we constantly attack them with sugar, tea, coffee, chlorinated water, phosphoric acid in soft drinks, and, of course, antibiotics. This is bad, because those gut bacteria act collectively as an actual organ of the body. Among other things, the good bugs take care of our immune systems. They are friendly resident aliens inside us, and if we don’t keep them healthy and happy, they can’t do the same for us.

Here is the really interesting part. At the Emory School of Medicine, an associate professor Andrew Gewirtz who has been scrutinizing fat mice, has come to the astounding conclusion that:

… [M]ice whose guts contained too many of the class of bacteria known as Firmicutes ate much more than other mice, experienced metabolic changes and became obese.

The implication for humans is that in many cases of obesity blamed on other causes, imbalanced gut flora could be the culprit. Rufus emphasizes one of the points made by Gewirtz: Although we can’t ask the mice why they ate more, it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with clever advertising or the lack of a junk-food tax. Excessive appetite and the storage of unneeded fat could be attributed to something as simple as out-of-whack intestinal flora.

It might be that supplemental probiotics and prebiotics are the closest thing to a magic bullet we’ll ever get. The author recommends prebiotic-fortified foods with oligofructose and/or inulin listed on its labels. The object is to “feed the right microbes in the right way.”

Rufus goes on to tell why the high colonic is such a good therapy, and many other fascinating items of intestinal lore. You are not gonna believe some of the stuff in this article. Incidentally, a piece by Quinn Eastman on the Emory University website gives more scholarly details about the work of Andrew Gewirtz, Ph.D., and Matam Vijay-Kumar, Ph.D.

What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say

Here is another very useful resource, a presentation that gives a guided tour of Dr. Pretlow’s fabulously innovative Weigh2Rock website, which has collected 134,000 messages from 30,000 kids. That’s a lot of data, and it comes from the real experts on childhood obesity, food addiction, and many other areas of consuming interest. The real experts are, of course, the kids.

You know how these things work. Nielsen ratings, for instance. For every household that reports to Nielsen that they’re watching a certain program, it’s assumed that a million and a half other households are watching it too. For every opinion expressed by a young person in the Weigh2Rock milieu, there is a thousand others by the kids who feel the same way. We don’t know how many, but they are worth listening to.

I know these kids appreciate how incredibly lucky they are to have a resource like Weigh2Rock at their disposal. I remember when being a teenager with a problem meant horrible isolation. You couldn’t even write to Ann Landers, because if you got an answer, a parent would open the envelope, or at the very least, demand to know why you were writing to an advice columnist. This is so much better.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Poop is the most important indicator of your health,” AlterNet, 03/27/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock, 2010
Image by kaibara87, used under its Creative Commons license.

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