Bacteria & Postbiotic Metabolites Provide Insights Into Obesity

Posted On: June 8, 2018
Categories:The Health Series,


By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN

In the most extensive study of its kind, scientists at King’s College in London analyzed the postbiotic metabolites from intestinal bacteria of 500 pairs of twins to help understand how our gut bacteria regulate the processes that govern the distribution of fat.i The King’s team also assessed how much of that activity is genetic and how much is determined by environmental factors.

The scientist’s analysis of the postbiotic metabolites of the twin’s stool samples enabled them to identify biomarkers related to the build-up of visceral fat, which is the fat that builds up around the waist. By understanding how postbiotic metabolites lead to the development of fat around the waist in some, but not all the twins, the King’s College researchers hope to gain an understanding of similar mechanisms that result in the development of obesity.

In their final analysis, the scientists identified 1,116 postbiotic metabolites from 786 individuals from the TwinsUK population-based twin study. The results revealed that less than 20% of individuals’ gut processes could be attributed to hereditary factors. On the other hand, over 2/3rds (67.7%) of an individual’s gut processes, as measured by the postbiotic metabolites produced by one’s gut bacteria, were found to be influenced by environmental factors, primarily a person’s daily diet.

THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC: It’s well known that visceral fat accumulation is strongly associated with the development of many of society’s chronic diseases such as musculoskeletal disorders (osteoarthritis), Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers of the breast, colon, and endometrium.ii iii One of the most significant factors contributing to the global obesity epidemic is the consumption of processed foods, which tend to be energy-dense and nutrient and fiber-deficient.

IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY: The results of this study announced that dietary changes cause changes to your microbiome, which result in changes in how your gut bacteria process and distribute fat.

Head of the King’s College London Twin Research Group Professor Tim Spector said: ‘This exciting work in our twins shows the importance to our health and weight of the thousands of chemicals that gut microbes produce in response to food. Knowing that they are largely controlled by what we eat rather than our genes is great news, and opens up many ways to use food as medicine. In the future, these chemicals could even be used in smart toilets or as smart toilet paper.’

Dr. Jonas Zierer, the first author of the study, added: ‘This new knowledge means we can alter the gut environment and confront the challenge of obesity from a new angle that is related to modifiable factors such as diet and the microbes in the gut. This is exciting news, because unlike our genes and our inherent risk to develop fat around the belly, the gut microbes can be modified with probiotics, with drugs or with high-fiber diets.’

Essential Formulas has been instrumental in educating people about the importance of the postbiotic metabolites that are produced by your probiotic bacteria. There is an intricate, complex and critically important relationship between the following three interrelated factors: your diet, your probiotic bacteria and the postbiotic metabolites that your probiotic bacteria produce. What is becoming increasingly apparent is the fact that postbiotic metabolites function as critical compounds that play essential roles in the regulation of many aspects of human health.

This current study conducted by scientists at King’s College in London adds another dimension to the importance of postbiotic metabolites by showing that they are involved in regulating how fat got processed and stored in the body.

i Zierer J. et al. The fecal metabolome as a functional readout of the gut microbiome. Nature Genetics, 2018 Jun;50(6):790-795.
ii Goran MI, et al. Obesity and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Children and Adolescents. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2003 Apr 1;88(4): 1417–1427.
iii World Health Organization. Obesity and Overweight. (July 29, 2017).