Gut bacteria plays key role in childhood obesity


Gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity, according to a new study by researchers are at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and published in the journal Obesity Reviews.

The study, led by Hariom Yadav, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, reviewed existing studies, both animal and human, on how the interaction between gut microbiome and immune cells can be passed from mother to baby as early as gestation and can contribute to childhood obesity.

The review also described how a mother's health, diet, exercise level, antibiotic use, birth method, and feeding method can affect the risk of obesity in her children.

“The medical community used to think that obesity was a result of consuming too many calories,” said Yadav in a statement. “However, a series of studies over the past decade has confirmed that the microbes living in our gut are not only associated with obesity but also are one of the causes.”  

In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is increasing at 2.3 percent rate each year among school-aged children, which is unacceptably high and indicates worrisome prospects for the next generation's health, the researchers said.

"This compilation of current research should be very useful for doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians to discuss with their patients because so many of these factors can be changed if people have enough good information," Yadav said. "We also wanted to identify gaps in the science for future research."

In addition, Yadav said having a better understanding of the role of the gut microbiome and obesity in both mothers and their children hopefully will help scientists design more successful preventive and therapeutic strategies to check the rise of obesity in children.