Gut bacteria pathway may be key to treating obesity: study

Yet another study has found a link between obesity and gut bacteria, shedding light on a possible treatment option that excludes surgery. The findings were made by researchers with the Cleveland Clinic, which reports that a specific chemical called trimethylamine oxide — TMAO for short — is the potential key to this treatment. The chemical results from gut bacteria; mice without it demonstrated obesity protection even when consuming high-calorie diets.

TMAO is a known high risk factor for serious cardiac conditions, such as having a heart attack; the higher someone's TMAO levels, the greater their risk. The TMAO itself is the by-product of digesting certain vital nutrients, among them being carnitine, choline, and lecithin, but there's another key component in all of this: flavin-containing monooxygenase, called 3(FMO3).

This host enzyme works to convert TMAO into its active form, meaning deactivating it could potentially inhibit the health conditions caused by TMAO. Given TMAO's high correlation with Type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease's high correlation with obesity, researchers sought to find whether TMAO can itself be involved in the development of obesity.

Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute's J. Mark Brown, Ph.D, and a team of fellow researchers set to study this particular metabolic pathway, finding that lab mice in which the FM03 gene is deactivated could eat high-calorie, high-fat diets while exhibiting greater protection against obesity. Some mice naturally lack the activated FMO3 gene.

In addition, these mice without the active gene were found to have greater gene expression of brown and beige fat cells, which have long been known to be more metabolically active than 'ordinary' white fat. The findings indicate that managing the gut bacteria ultimately responsible for TMAO could be a vital way to help protect against Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. More research into this subject will have to be undertaken, though, before it is determined whether this is a viable avenue of treatment.

SOURCE: EurekAlert