Obese people with few gut flora are more susceptible to chronic diseases

30 August 2013

An international research project, MetaHIT, has found that people with fewer bacterial species in their intestines are more likely to develop health complications, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The consortium examined the intestinal flora of 169 obese Danes and 123 non-obese Danes. People with few bacteria species comprised 23% of the study population and showed "more marked overall adiposity, insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia and a more pronounced inflammatory phenotype when compared with high bacterial richness individuals". These people also gained more weight with time.

The study found that only a few bacterial species were needed to identify those with high and low species richness and between lean and obese people.

Jeroen Raes of VIB/VUB said, “We were able to distinguish between two groups based on their intestinal flora: people with a large richness of bacterial species in their intestines and people with fewer bacterial species. A species-rich bacterial flora appeared to function differently compared to the poorer variety. It was surprising to see that obese and non-obese people were found in both groups.”

“This is an amazing result with possibly enormous implications for the treatment and even prevention of the greatest public health issue of our time. But we are not there yet, now we need studies in which we can monitor people for a longer period. We want to perform these types of long-term studies together with the 'Vlaams Darmflora Project' (Flemish Gut Flora Project).”


E Le Chatelier et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature 500, 541–546. Published online 28 August 2013. doi:10.1038/nature12506


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