Dietary Fat & Bacteria in the Gut Related?
By Ivanhoe News Health Correspondent, Marianne Thornton
(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Watching your weight? It turns out how fat is absorbed from food could be affected by more than you think. A recent study using zebrafish discovered that some microbes residing in the gut actually allow the host to absorb more dietary fat from food.
The senior study author John Rawls, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with colleagues fed zebrafish fatty acids tagged with a fluorescent dye. Since zebrafish are optically transparent when young, the researchers were able to observe the absorption and transport of dietary fats in the presence or absence of gut microbes.
“In our study we found that gut microbiota promote dietary fat absorption and lipid droplet formation in the zebrafish intestine,” Dr. Rawls told Ivanhoe.
That means these microbes, in particular a group of bacteria called Firmicutes, play an important role in the fat absorption by the host which could increase the host’s ability to harvest calories from food. Furthermore, zebrafish that had been fed regularly had more of these Firmicutes and accumulated more lipid droplets in their intestines than those where food had been withheld.
“[The study] also provides an ecological explanation for the microbial role in this metabolic process by showing that prior feeding enriches for members of the gut microbiota that stimulate lipid droplet accumulation,” Dr. Rawls states.
This discovery along with other studies linking obesity with this same bacterial group could help to inform new approaches to treating obesity and malnutrition. However, these are still long-term, potential implications of the research.
“Our short term goals are to understand molecular signals by which bacteria promote fat absorption and the host mechanisms that perceive and respond to those bacterial cues,” says Rawls.
Rawls continues, “If we understand those mechanisms, then it may be possible to manipulate them in order to selectively stimulate or inhibit fat absorption.”
Although further studies are required to determine if this is applicable to humans, it is an exciting step towards understanding how our bodies absorb dietary fat which could be useful in the future.
Source: Interview with John Rawls, Ph.D., Cell Host and Microbe, September, 2012