Dr. Fred Pescatore discusses new research findings published in Nature.

Jan 24, 2014


The new findings, published in Nature, find a link between the ‘richness’ of bacterial species in our gut and susceptibility to metabolic complications related to obesity.

For a long while, and for something that makes absolute common sense, I have believed that the health of your GI tract is critical for almost every medical condition. Science has finally confirmed that dare I say it, my gut reaction, is true. It would appear that your gut flora is implicated in metabolic disorders, some of the deadliest and most costly and prevalent illnesses plaguing our society – maybe even the greatest public health issue of our time.

There is a distinct link between the composition of our gut bacteria and incidence of obesity related conditions including heart disease and diabetes, according to new data from the MetaHIT project.

The new findings, published in Nature, find a link between the ‘richness’ of bacterial species in our gut and susceptibility to metabolic complications related to obesity.

This study showed that people with fewer bacterial species in their intestines are more likely to develop complications, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Gut flora, with decreased bacterial varieties, appear to function entirely differently to the healthy varieties that have greater diversity. That is why it is crucial to take a probiotic with multiple organisms and don’t read this as an excuse to take a product with the most number of bugs. Just to be clear, it is the number of species, NOT the number of bugs that create a healthy human. That’s why I like Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics. It not only has 10 different species but allows your body’s own bugs to grow without crowding them out.

The researchers found that the group with lower species richness in the intestinal flora was more susceptible to developing obesity-related conditions and chronic inflammation – with the obese people in this group even more at risk of cardiovascular conditions than the obese people in the group with a higher diversity of gut bacteria.

Over the past five years the EU-funded MetaHIT project has advanced DNA analysis and bioinformatics methods to map the human intestinal bacteria. The team has previously shown that our gut flora come in three distinct types and these types are linked to our diet.

In this analysis of intestinal bacteria from 292 Danish people it was shown that around a quarter of those tested had 40% less gut bacteria genes and correspondingly fewer bacteria than average.

This lack of bacteria also seems to lead to a preponderance of bacteria which have potential to cause mild inflammation in the digestive tract and in the entire body, and that this is reflected in blood samples that reveal a state of chronic inflammation.

This low level chronic inflammation is known to affect metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. I love when this all falls so nicely into place.

More marked overall adiposity, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia and a more pronounced inflammatory phenotype when compared with high bacterial richness individuals characterize those with that low bacterial richness.

So, please take a good probiotic that has many different species and not one with too much of one or too much of even a few. This project is quite exciting and is going to give us much insight into the role these bacteria we co-exist with play in our health. Stay tuned and when I read about it, I’ll let you know.

Dr. Fred Pescatore is the founder and Medical Director of Medicine 369 in New York City, a practice specializing in both traditional and alternative medical techniques. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Biology from Villanova University and his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Caribbean School of Medicine. He completed his Masters Degree at Columbia University School of Public Health and continued his post graduate training at St. Vincent’s Hospital of New York, Mt. Sinai Medical Center and St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital Center. Dr. Pescatore is a member of the American Medical Association (AMA), American Public Health Association (APHA), National Association of Physician Broadcasters, and American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM), and is President of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN). Dr. Pescatore has been published in scientific journals and is the author of several best-selling health and nutrition books.