Gut microflora allows different people to extract different amounts of energy from food

(ORDO NEWS) — Even consuming the same amount of calories, some people can accumulate excess weight, while others remain quite slim.

Perhaps it’s their microflora: for some, it works “too” efficiently, extracting the maximum from the same amount of food.

Symbiotic microbes that inhabit the large intestine play a huge role in the life and condition of our body.

These bacteria can determine the effectiveness of medications and the severity of Covid-19, the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and even mood.

New work by scientists at the University of Copenhagen has shown that the gut microflora can influence body composition by extracting varying amounts of energy from food.

Henrik Roager and colleagues collected faecal samples from 85 Danish volunteers with a similar diet.

From these samples, scientists isolated semi-digested food residues and found out its energy content, and also determined the species composition of microbes, which account for a large part of these secretions.

The authors of the study found that about 40 percent of the participants in the experiment extracted significantly more energy from what they ate, and the weight of the members of this group was on average 10 percent more.

According to scientists, this may indicate a still underestimated mechanism for the development of obesity, which is associated not with the food that a person consumes, and not with the characteristics of the body itself, but with a set of bacteria that inhabit its intestinal tract.

The highest efficiency in extracting energy – and the tendency to accumulate excess weight – was demonstrated by volunteers whose microflora was dominated by Bacteroides.

Carriers of microflora of other types, where the lion’s share was Ruminococcaceae or Prevotella bacteria , digested food slightly worse and weighed less on average.

How fully nutrients are released also depends on the speed of their movement through the gastrointestinal tract.

The period can vary between 12-36 hours, and Henrik Roger et al also measured it in the participants of the experiment.

Initially, scientists assumed that the longer the movement of food, the deeper it is digested. But as a result, they revealed an inverse relationship.

Carriers of microflora characterized by a large number of Bacteroides and a high efficiency of energy extraction, the movement of food took, on average, less time. Why this happens is not yet clear.

However, new work shows that the composition of the gut microbiota has a much greater impact on the efficiency of food digestion than many physiological features of the body.


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