Living in Cold Climates May Give You Obesity-Related Gut Bacteria

By Breanna Draxler | February 13, 2014 1:45 pm

obese-up-northFat keeps the body warm, so it stands to reason that people living far from the equator have more body fat. A new study says that could be because people who live farther North have more obesity-related microbes in their guts.

Researchers at UC Berkeley studied the proportions of two particular types of gut bacteria in stomachs around the world: Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Previous studies have shown that people with a lot of Firmicutes and very little Bacteroidetes are more likely to be obese.

Gut Bacteria, Hot and Cold

By gleaning medical data from half a dozen previous studies (1,020 healthy people living in 23 different locations) the researchers found that, in general, a person who lived more poleward hosted more obesity-related bacteria than their equatorial counterparts. Thus a Swedish person’s microbiota, for instance, was higher in Firmicutes and lower in Bacteroidetes as compared to the gut of someone living in Malawi.

This held true even after researchers controlled for other factors such as age, gender and some genetic factors, according to the study published in Biology Letters.

Unclear Connection

The connection between geography and gut bacteria is not a clear cause and effect, though. The scientists can’t say for sure that other factors like diet or unexamined genes aren’t at play in shaping a given population’s microbe population.

However the findings add to the growing body of evidence that a person’s weight is, at least in part, dictated by the bugs in their gut. Study coauthor Taichi Suzuki said this is because of the way obesity-related bacteria breaks down food; they digest with extra efficiency, leaving the person’s body with more calories at its disposal.

One more reason to consider becoming a snowbird and flying South for the winter.

Image credit: djgis/Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, top posts
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

    The bacteria found in our stomach are crucial to good health. It makes sense to me that the water that different populations drink would have a significant effect on the “gut flora” perhaps the less the internal bacteria have to fight off other bacteria the more efficient they are. I also think that if you watch a young kid eat you can see them become active almost immediately whereas adults slow a bit and my shot in the dark is its due to the bacteria (perhaps the population in the child is more diverse) absorbing nutrients. Scientists should tinker with them before jumping into genetically modifying our DNA.

    • kandy830

      My Uncle James recently got a new black Mazda MAZDASPEED3
      Hatchback by working at home online. you can try here F­i­s­c­a­l­M­a­z­e­.­ℂ­o­m

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Robert Leopardi

    I think I have that bacteria and I live in Florida… :o)

  • conn suits

    Seriously? And was the proportion of “fat” bacteria intermediate half way between the poles and the equator? Did it increase on a nice gentle curve? And were the 2 supposedly separate populations (“fat” vs “skinny” bacteria) really mostly overlapping?

  • Buddy199

    How do you explain Samoans and native Hawaiians? Not to mention Alabama.

  • gwynthfair

    Why is this the first time I’m hearing about obesity bacteria????

  • elderlyfox

    And following the advice of the totally corrupt, self-appointed, big food and big biotech funded dieticians, will also get you obese. ie stuffing yourself with carbs all day on the recommended grains 6X a day, unlimited fruit and root veges, no limits on sugar or HFCS!

    What they don’t tell is that in human physiology it’s the carbs that fatten. Digested carbs first top up the liver and muscle glycogen stores. The rest is rapidly converted to bodyfat in the cells’ mitochondria via the Krebs cycle. Digested fats are only slowly converted to useful energy molecules in the liver. The liver converts fructose from fruit and sugars directly into bodyfat.

    And, they won’t tell calories that don’t count. There exist various homeostasis mechanisms that speed or slow metabolic rate, MR, depending on what, when and how much is eaten. On such mechanism, thermic effect, is bone structure dependent. A light-boned ectomorph has an inherently high MR rate-rise after a meal, and gains zero bodyfat even after eating half a gallon of 60% sugared ice cream. A heavy-boned endomorph gains fat on a slice of apple pie due to a low inherent MR rate rise after a meal/snack.
    Why is there deliberate misinfo? IMO, after studying and applying the subject for half a century, fat has to be made to look BAD, to fatten, which it doesn’t, and to clog arteries, which it doesn’t. If the corrupt dieticians were to tell you that high saturated fat foods such as egg yolks reduce the artery inflammation that leads to calcification; that cream, butter and full fat milk products synthesise vitamin B6 in the gut, B6 reducing artery-calcifying homocysteine and that grass fed animal fats are high in healthgiving omega3, CLA and LCFA, then how could mainstream medicine market their highly toxic and totally useless ‘bad cholesterol’ lowering statin drugs?

    • badu

      I am so unutterably bored with hearing about the perfect diet. There is no perfect human diet, our needs are individual, that’s why we don’t just eat grass like cows.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

D-brief

Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »