Thursday, May 16, 2013


It is inconceivable to believe that a tiny bacteria residing in human guts can influence the metabolism so dramatically as the one recently identified in Belgium by a group of scientists. Interestingly this bacteria, not very well known but yet a part of the typical microbiome associated with human beings can startlingly alter the absorption of sugar and fat from the guts if present in adequate numbers. It is well known that there are hundreds of microbial species, numbering trillions, residing in different parts of human body and maintaining a balance among them can ensure normal health. The rampant use of antibiotics and antibacterial chemicals for treating diseases and maintaining hygiene invariably upsets such a fine balance and almost all problems to day mankind faces can be attributed to this reckless living style. The bacteria presently under the scanner is reported to be very effective at least in rat experiments in reducing the weight of obese rats dramatically and the hope is that a suitable treatment protocol may eventually emerge based on these beneficial bugs. Here is a take on this important development. 

"Researchers at the Catholic University of Louvain, in Belgium, worked with a single species of bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila. It normally makes up 3-5% of gut bacteria, but its levels fall in obesity. Mice on a high fat diet - which led them to put on two to three times more fat than normal, lean, mice - were fed the bacteria. The mice remained bigger than their lean cousins, but had lost around half of their extra weight despite no other changes to their diet. They also had lower levels of insulin resistance, a key symptom of Type-2 diabetes. Prof Patrice Cani, from the Catholic University of Louvain, told the BBC: "Of course it is an improvement, we did not completely reverse the obesity, but it is a very strong decrease in the fat mass."

World to day recognizes Diabetes and Obesity as most debilitating life style disorders that affect the quality of daily life causing misery to millions of people across the Globe and in spite of many drugs emerging during the last two decades to fight them, their onslaught does not seems to be abating. There are many dietary regimes propounded by different interest groups which might be helpful in ameliorating the conditions to varying extent. Still a substantial segment of the affected population does not respond to them in a way that is desirable. Therefore the microbial route to tackle them offers a novel way of attempting to bring solace to such people. One hopes that the new findings will be confirmed using human subjects and carrying out appropriate clinical studies. Hundreds of health foods, already in the market boast of probiotics and prebiotics that can improve the gut health though claims made by many of them are not substantiated by clinical data. A time has come probably to re-evaluate the effectiveness of these foods after including the newly discovered Akkermansia bacteria.     

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