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Is Your Stomach Bacteria Making You FAT?

By at May 29, 2012 | 11:37 am | Print

Is Your Stomach Bacteria Making You FAT?

If you added up all the bacteria that live on the skin, in the GI tract, and in other orifices, they would outnumber your human cells ten to one. Amazing! This may be unsettling at first until you realize that they are there to protect us from harmful organisms, such as yeast and C. diff. Our bacterial army works tirelessly around the clock to keep us healthy.

But do they do even more than that?

It is well established that the bacterium H. pylori is responsible for most stomach ulcers. However, what often is not known is that they also play a beneficial role in regulating our stomach acid. When the level of acid in our stomach gets too high H. pylori releases a protein that signals our stomach to stop acid production. Unfortunately, some people have a side effect to this protein that causes an ulcer.

But, here’s the cool part.

Recent studies indicate that H. pylori control more than just the physiology of acid production by the stomach. They control your eating behavior.

As known for years, the stomach produces the hormone ghrelin. When ghrelin is high you feel hungry, and when levels are low you’re satiated. So typically after eating ghrelin blood levels fall and you stop eating. A study last year, however, revealed that individuals without H. pylori in their stomachs did not have a post-meal drop in ghrelin as did individuals with H. pylori.

Furthermore, a study that looked at 92 veterans, found that those treated with antibiotics to eliminate H. pylori gained more weight than peers. Likely because they lost the H. pylori mediated drop in ghrelin, and therefore kept eating.

Three generations ago 80% of Americans were infected with H. pylori. However today, because of current antibiotic use, less than 6% of children test positive for it. In other words, we have an entire generation of children (for the first time) growing up without H. pylori regulating ghrelin’s post-meal effects on hunger.

Is it possible that this is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic?

Perhaps a more appropriate title for this article should have been “Is the Overuse of Antibiotics Making Us Fat?”

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