Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gut microbes help the body extract more calories from food

Date:
September 12, 2012
Source:
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Summary:
In a study using zebrafish, researchers reveal how microbes in the intestine aid the uptake of fats -- and suggest how diet may influence our bodies’ microbial communities.

Confocal microscopy of intestinal epithelial cells (red) in zebrafish shows that the presence of microbes stimulates dietary fatty acid uptake and accumulation in epithelial lipid droplets (green).
Credit: Image created by Ivana Semova, PhD

You may think you have your food all to yourself, but you're actually sharing it with a vast community of microbes waiting within your digestive tract. A new study from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine reveals some gut microbes increase the absorption of dietary fats, allowing the host organism to extract more calories from the same amount of food.

"This study is the first to demonstrate that microbes can promote the absorption of dietary fats in the intestine and their subsequent metabolism in the body," said senior study author John Rawls, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology at UNC. "The results underscore the complex relationship between microbes, diet and host physiology."

Previous studies showed gut microbes aid in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, but their role in dietary fat metabolism remained a mystery, until now. The research was published in the Sept 13, 2012 issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

The study was carried out in zebrafish, which are optically transparent when young. By feeding the fish fatty acids tagged with fluorescent dye, the researchers were able to directly observe the absorption and transport of fats in the presence or absence of gut microbes.

The researchers pinpointed one group of bacteria -- Firmicutes -- as instrumental in increasing fat absorption. They also found the abundance of Firmicutes in the gut was influenced by diet: fish fed normally had more Firmicutes bacteria compared to fish that were denied food for several days. Other studies have linked a higher relative abundance of Firmicutes in the gut with obesity in humans.

"Our findings indicate that the gut microbiota can increase the host's ability to harvest calories from the diet by stimulating fat absorption," said the study's lead researcher, Ivana Semova, PhD, who was a graduate student at UNC at the time the study was conducted. "Another implication is that diet history could impact fat absorption by changing the abundance of certain microbes, such as Firmicutes, that promote fat absorption."

Although the study involved only fish, not humans, the researchers say it offers insights that could help inform new approaches to treating obesity and other disorders. For example, said Rawls, "If we can understand how specific gut bacteria are able to stimulate absorption of dietary fat, we may be able to use that information to develop new ways to reduce fat absorption in the context of obesity and associated metabolic diseases, and to enhance fat absorption in the context of malnutrition."

Study co-authors include Lantz Mackey of UNC, Juliana Carten and Steven Farber of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Jesse Stombaugh and Rob Knight of the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ivana Semova, JulianaD. Carten, Jesse Stombaugh, LantzC. Mackey, Rob Knight, StevenA. Farber, JohnF. Rawls. Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Absorption and Metabolism of Fatty Acids in the Zebrafish. Cell Host & Microbe, 2012; 12 (3): 277 DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.08.003

Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "Gut microbes help the body extract more calories from food." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912125114.htm>.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. (2012, September 12). Gut microbes help the body extract more calories from food. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912125114.htm
University of North Carolina School of Medicine. "Gut microbes help the body extract more calories from food." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120912125114.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Predicting Heart Transplant Rejection With a Blood Test

Predicting Heart Transplant Rejection With a Blood Test

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Now a new approach to rejection of donor organs could change the way doctors predict transplant rejection…without expensive, invasive procedures. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Better Braces That Vibrate

Better Braces That Vibrate

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) The length of time you have to keep your braces on could be cut in half thanks to a new device that speeds up the process. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone App Tracks Your Heart Rate

Smartphone App Tracks Your Heart Rate

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A new app that can track your heart rate 24/7 is available for download in your app store and its convenience could save your life. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stroke in Young Adults

Stroke in Young Adults

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) A stroke can happen at any time and affect anyone regardless of age. This mother chose to give her son independence and continue to live a normal life after he had a stroke at 18 years old. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins