Will Engineered Super-Bacteria Help Even Gluttons to Stay Lean? Vanderbilt Scientists "Produce" Anti-Obesity Bacteria to be Administered in the Drinking Water

From the microbe engineer's petri dishes into your guts. It's not unlikely that we are about to see "anti-obesity" bacteria being sold in a year or two.
I am not even sure if it would be a good thing, but the latest study Zhongyi Chen and colleagues from various US labs published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation clearly suggests: With the right gut tenants (microbiome), "super-sizing" your meals may no longer super-size your fat stores.

The principle appears to be hilariously simple. The scientists "manufactured" a type of E. coli Nissle bacteria (1917), that produces so-called N-acylphosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs). These "NAPEs" are precursors to the N-acylethanolamide (NAE) family of lipids, which are synthesized in the small intestine in response to feeding and reduce food intake and obesity.
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The Consequence: Well, you just have to take a closer look at the data in Figure 1 to see that the provision of these bacteria in the drinking did more than just prevent the rodent-typical fat gain on a high fat diet.
Figure 1: Weight gain (g) and fat mass (g) in rodents on high fat diet, with water, placebo (vehicle), regular E. coli (pEcN) and NAPE-produce E.coli in the drinking water (Chen. 2014)
What's interesting is the fact that the treatment was not permanent. These bacteria do thus not work like an "anti-obesity" vaccine. The treament-induced changes in the ratio of different bacteria in the rodent guts (increased number of Bacteriodetes, reduced number of Firmicutes increased) was reversed, when the treatment was ceased after 8 weeks.
Figure 3: Food intake (top) and efficacy (bottom; Chen. 2014)
Bottom line: I have to admit that the statement "help gluttons to stay lean" in the headline of today's SuppVersity article may be slightly misleading. In the end, a corresponding supplement for humans would - assuming that it works just as well, as it did in the mice in the study at hand - turn the glutton into an ascetic, someone who doesn't really need much food to be satisfied, someone "like" the mice in the NAPE-bacteria group (see Figure 3, top - red graph).

The notion that the bacteria may be eating away all your food and you could / must eat all-day just to maintain a normal body weight is thus flawed. There is an effect on feed efficacy (Figure 3, bottom), but it is not the main reason the rodents staid lean... but let's be honest: That wouldn't be ideal, either - right?

Whether it's making you eat less or helping you to use the energy more efficiently, in the end, the study at hand confirms that the "wrong" gut bacteria could make the difference between obese and sick and lean and healthy. An insight no one would have been dreaming of ~10 years ago!
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