A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has shown that children who are obese and lean have different gut bacteria.

Researchers at Yale University in the US examined gut microbiota and weight in 84 children and teenagers who were between seven and 20 years old. Of the 84 children, 27 were obese, 35 were severely obese, seven were overweight and 15 were normal weight. Researchers analysed the participants’ gut microbiota. The participants underwent an MRI to measure body fat partitioning, provided blood samples and kept a three-day food diary.

Scientists found eight groups of gut microbiota that were linked to the amount of fat in the body. Four of these tend to flourish in children and teens with obesity compared to their normal-weight counterparts. Smaller amounts of the other four microbial groups were found in participants who were obese compared to children and teenagers of normal weight. The gut microbiota found in youth who were obese tended to be more efficient at digesting carbohydrates than the gut flora of teenagers and children of normal weight.

In addition, the children with obesity tended to have higher levels of short-chain fatty acids in the blood than children of normal weight. The study found short chain fatty acids, which are produced by some types of gut bacteria, are associated with the production of fat in the liver.

Researchers are of the opinion that findings of their study, which is the first to find a connection between gut microbiota and fat distribution in children, may lead to treatments for early-onset obesity.

“Our findings show children and teenagers with obesity have a different composition of gut flora than lean youth,” said the study’s senior author, Nicola Santoro, Associate Research Scientist at Yale University in the US. “This suggests that targeted modifications to the specific species composing the human microbiota could be developed and could help to prevent or treat early-onset obesity in the future,” said Santoro.

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