Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Causes of obesity - part 2

Well if you did your homework and watched the HBO shows you heard quite a bit about fatty liver disease and saw some fatty. I haven't watched the last two shows yet but, so far, there's been no mention of an intriguing new hypothesis that obesity and fatty liver disease in particular may be infectious and therefore treatable with antibiotics. This is not a new suggestion but some of the best evidence to date, from studies of mice, was published in February in Nature:

Inflammasome-mediated dysbiosis regulates progression of NAFLD and obesity

"When healthy mice were co-housed with mice that had altered gut microbes, the healthy mice also developed a susceptibility for development of liver disease and obesity."

A number of newspapers and blogs picked up on this fairly dramatic result. Here's part of a blog posting by Suzanne O'Malley at the Huffington Post:

New findings suggest that obesity and liver disease can be caused by proteins that change microbe populations in the stomach, according to a study published in the February 2012 issue of the journal Nature. The Yale immunobiologists' discovery suggests that obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may be infectious and treatable with targeted antibiotics. At least that was the case for mice. NAFLD is caused by metabolic syndrome -- diabetes, hypertension, and high blood cholesterol -- which are also risk factors for heart disease. Researchers expanded on an earlier study that showed microbial imbalances in the stomach, caused by the same family of proteins, heightened the risk of intestinal diseases such as colitis. The most extraordinary finding, according to senior author Richard A. Flavell, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, was that the changed intestinal environment that led to obesity and liver disease was infectious among the community of mice studied.
The next step, Flavell says, is extending this research to humans and identifying more precisely the bacteria involved in the progression to liver disease.

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