High-Fat Diets Change Gut Microbe Populations, Leading to Obesity

High-Fat Diets Change Gut Microbe Populations, Leading to Obesity

If you can’t stop mowing down that pile of fatty bacon, even when you know you’ve gone past reason, it may not be (completely) your fault.

According to a new study with rats, consuming high-fat foods literally changes the bacteria makeup in your gut, and also alters signals to the brain.

In other words: the brain won’t sense the signals for fullness, leading to overeating – one of the leading causes of obesity.

Researchers at the University of Georgia, Washington State University and Binghamton University are presenting their study later this week at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior. They research all aspects of eating and drinking behaviors.

“When we switch the rats to a high fat diet, it reorganizes brain circuits,” explained Krzysztof Czaja, DVM, PhD, a principal investigator on the study. “The brain is changed by eating unbalanced foods. It induces inflammation in the brain regions responsible for feeding behavior. Those reorganized circuits and inflammation may alter satiety signaling.”

burger_420-420x0Dr. Czaja compares the stomach’s shifting bacteria from high-fat foods to a swift change in temperature – some people won’t notice a thing. The rest become sick.

“In the regular physiological state, many different strains of bacteria live in a balanced environment in the intestinal tract,” said Dr. Czaja.

“When we start feeding the rats a different diet, there is an immediate effect. Suddenly, different nutrients are changing the microenvironment in the gut and some bacteria begin to overpopulate. Some sensitive bacteria begin to die and some populations may even vanish.”

The changes in bacteria populations causes inflammation, which damages nerve cells carrying signals to the brain, resulting in miscommunication between the gut and brain.

Dr. Czaja says we should “think systemically” when we talk about diets and their impact. While this new study certainly proves part of the problem is biological, it isn’t the sole cause of obesity in certain people.

“All of the components and receptors in our body are interconnected and should work in harmony. There is not a single receptor responsible for huge physiological outcomes.”

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