Some guts are better than others at harvesting energy – Zoo House News

Some guts are better than others at harvesting energy – Zoo House News

  • Science
  • January 1, 2023
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New research from the University of Copenhagen suggests that part of the Danish population has a gut microbial composition that, on average, extracts more energy from food than the gut microbes of their compatriots. The research is a step towards understanding why some people gain more weight than others, even when they eat the same things.

As unfair as it may be, some of us seem to gain weight just from the sight of a plate of Christmas cookies, while others can chew with abandon and not gain an ounce. Part of the explanation may have to do with the makeup of our gut microbes. This is according to new research carried out at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport.

The researchers looked at the residual energy in the faeces of 85 Danes to gauge how effective their gut microbes are at extracting energy from food. At the same time, they mapped the composition of the gut microbes for each participant.

The results show that about 40 percent of the participants belong to a group that, on average, extracts more energy from food than the other 60 percent. The researchers also observed that those who extracted the most energy from food also weighed 10 percent more, or nine kilograms more, on average.

“We may have found a key to understanding why some people gain more weight than others, even if they don’t eat more or eat differently. But this needs further investigation,” says associate professor Henrik Roager from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Diet, Exercise and Sport.

May increase risk of obesity

The results suggest that being overweight may not just be related to how healthy you eat or how much you exercise. It may also have something to do with the composition of a person’s gut microbes.

The participants were divided into three groups based on the composition of their gut microbes. The so-called B-type composition (dominated by Bacteroides bacteria) is more effective at extracting nutrients from food and was observed in 40 percent of the participants.

After the study, the researchers suspect that part of the population may be disadvantaged by gut bacteria that are a little too effective at extracting energy. This effectiveness can result in more calories being available to the human host from the same amount of food.

“The fact that our intestinal bacteria are excellent at extracting energy from food is basically a good thing, because the metabolism of the bacteria provides additional energy in the form of short-chain fatty acids, for example, i.e. molecules that our body can process and use as energy-supplying fuel. But if we use more than we burn, the extra energy provided by gut bacteria can increase the risk of obesity over time,” says Henrik Roager.

Short travel time surprised in the stomach

From the mouth, through the esophagus, stomach, duodenum and small intestine, colon and finally to the rectum, the food we eat makes a journey of 12 to 36 hours, passing through several stations before the body extracts all the nutrients from the food Has .

The researchers also looked at the length of this journey for each participant, who all had similar dietary habits. Here the researchers hypothesized that those with long digestive tracts would be the ones who would harvest the most nutrients from their diet. But the study found just the opposite.

“We thought that a long digestive journey time would allow more energy to be extracted. But here we see that participants with the B-type gut bacteria, which extract the most energy, also have the fastest transit through the gastrointestinal system. which gave us food for thought,” says Henrik Roager.

Confirms previous studies in mice

The new human study confirms previous studies in mice. In these studies, it was found that germ-free mice that received gut microbes from obese donors gained more weight than mice that received gut microbes from lean donors, despite the same diet.

Even then, researchers suggested that the differences in weight gain might be because the gut bacteria of obese people were more efficient at extracting energy from food. This theory is now confirmed in the new study by the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sport.

“It’s very interesting that the group of people who have less energy in the chair also weigh more on average. However, this study provides no evidence that the two factors are directly related. We hope to investigate this in more detail in the future,” says Henrik Roager.

About gut bacteria:

Everyone has a unique composition of gut bacteria – shaped by genetics, environment, lifestyle and diet. The collection of gut bacteria, called the gut microbiota, is like a galaxy in our gut, with a staggering 100 billion of them per gram of stool. Intestinal bacteria in the large intestine are used to break down food components that our body’s own digestive enzymes cannot process, such as roughage. Humans can be divided into three groups based on the presence and frequency of three main groups of bacteria that most of us have: B-type (Bacteroides), R-type (Ruminococcaceae), and P-type (Prevotella).

About the study

The energy content of stool samples from 85 overweight Danish women and men was examined. Participants included men and women aged 22 to 66 years. 40 percent of the participants fell into a special group characterized by a lower diversity of gut bacteria and a faster travel time for food through their digestive tract. It was also found that this group had less residual stool energy compared to the other two groups, which could not be explained by differences in habitual diet. The researchers also observed that the group with less energy in the chair also weighed more than the other groups.

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