Can Germs In Your Drinking Water Help Prevent Obesity?Thursday, July 10, 2014
In my show I joke about how I intend to import water from the river Ganges as a new obesity treatment that I will appropriately name “RunFast”.
Jokes aside, a study by Zhongyi Chen and colleagues, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows that treating mice with genetically modified bugs delivered through their drinking water can protect them from becoming obese even when fed a high-fat diet.
To be exact, the researchers used a strain of e coli bacteria genetically engineered to produce N-acylphosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs), which are precursors to the N-acylethanolamide (NAE) family of lipids, normally synthesized in the small intestine in response to feeding and known to reduce food intake.
As their study shows, administration of these modified bacteria in drinking water for 8 weeks dramatically lowered food intake, weight gain, body fat, insulin resistance and liver fat in mice on a high-fat diet.
These “protective effects” lasted for at least 4 weeks after removal of these bacteria from the drinking water.
In another set of experiments the researchers also showed that this strain of bacteria reduced weight gain in a genetic model of mouse obesity.
Contrary to what one may believe, this study neither supports nor refutes the idea that gut bacteria may be partly responsible for the obesity epidemic.
Rather, the study primarily shows that bacteria may be used as a delivery system for “therapeutic doses” of molecules to the intestines – in this case, resulting in the modification of appetite and metabolism.
I would not be surprised if the therapeutic use of bacteria (genetically modified or not) opens up a whole new dimension of therapeutics – not just for obesity.
Chen Z, Guo L, Zhang Y, L Walzem R, Pendergast JS, Printz RL, Morris LC, Matafonova E, Stien X, Kang L, Coulon D, McGuinness OP, Niswender KD, & Davies SS (2014). Incorporation of therapeutically modified bacteria into gut microbiota inhibits obesity. The Journal of clinical investigation PMID: 24960158