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Research Explores Relationship of the Human Microbiome and Obesity

Long understudied, the human microbiome—the microbes, with their genomes, that dwell in and on the human body—is now under intense scrutiny. It is increasingly clear that “the human indigenous microbial communities … play a larger role in human health and disease than previously recognized” (Nutr Rev 2012;70:S2-S9).

In August, two studies provided new evidence that antibiotics administered in early life can result in obesity, presumably by disturbing the gut microbiome. Conversely, disturbance of microbial communities in obese individuals can result in beneficial outcomes, as a third study, in October, showed with bariatric surgery.

“The important thing is that there are interesting theories and hypotheses about how the bacterial flora of the stool might contribute to the etiology of obesity,” Philip Schauer, MD, director, Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio, told General Surgery News. “This is an interesting and early and somewhat speculative area of research. It may challenge the notion that obesity is just due to not eating the right things and not exercising enough.”

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