Gut Bacteria Linked To Obesity And Type 2 Diabetes

| August 29, 2012

You may not think too often about the “bugs” that live in your gut, but you are providing a home to around one hundred trillion microbes, mainly in your colon. The “gut flora”, as they are called, include gut bacteria, fungi and various other single-celled organisms. This complex community of microbes normally exists in a mutually beneficial relationship with your body. The gut flora perform many useful functions, such as producing vitamin K and biotin, regulating the immune system and suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.

A new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the USA, though, has shown that some bacteria in the human gut have a more sinister role; they are linked to the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a group of risk factors, including insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, increased blood pressure and high cholesterol, which significantly increase your chances of cardiovascular disease and stroke and are often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

The study analysed the gut bacteria in 310 members of the Old Order Amish in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, the results showed that each person had one of three different communities of gut flora, each characterised by a dominant type of bacteria. However, it was not the type of gut flora community that was linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome, but instead differing levels of 26 less abundant bacterial species.

So, how can gut bacteria make you fat and cause metabolic syndrome and diabetes? The research team also found an apparent link between the gut bacteria they identified and inflammation, which is believed to be a factor in obesity and many other chronic diseases. Other recent research has helped to reveal what may be going on.

“Leaky gut”, inflammation and adipokines promote metabolic syndrome

Bacterial cell walls contain compounds called lipopolysaccharides. Some bacteria (the ones that make you fat) have a lot more of these compounds in their cell walls than others. When the bacteria die and their cell walls break down, the lipopolysaccharides are released. These then trigger receptors in the gut lining, causing the normally tight junctions between the epithelial cells to open up, so allowing the lipopolysaccharides to slip through and get into the bloodstream. This condition is often referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”.

Once in the blood and tissue fluid, lipopolysaccharides provoke a strong reaction from the immune system, resulting in inflammation. In people who have a lot of the offending bacteria in their gut, this situation becomes chronic and the ongoing, low-grade inflammation promotes both the formation of adipose (fatty) tissue and the deposition of fat within it.

This adipose tissue doesn’t just sit there. It becomes an active endocrine organ, producing hormones called adipokines, which promote further inflammation and influence sugar and fat metabolism, leading to insulin resistance, high blood levels of sugar and insulin, the deposition of cholesterol in the arteries and high blood pressure – in other words, metabolic syndrome.

What can you do to avoid this situation? Cutting down on sugar and saturated fat is one way, since both have been shown to favour harmful gut bacteria and increase the transport of lipopolysaccharides across the gut wall. Looking after your “good” bacteria is important, since they will suppress the growth of the kinds that are guilty of provoking inflammation.

Here are ten things you can do to promote a healthy balance of gut flora:

• Don’t eat red meat more than once or twice a week;

• Have fibre-rich vegetables or salads with all main meals and snack on fresh berries and nuts between meals;

• Eat foods containing “prebiotic” soluble fibre, which feeds beneficial gut flora, such as chicory, leeks, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and garlic;

• Eat fish (preferably oily fish) two or three times a week;

• Have “live”, unsweetened yoghurt daily or take a probiotic supplement;

• Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates;

• Stress hormones are bad for your gut bacteria, so avoid chronic stress as far as possible and find ways to de-stress your life;

• Avoid taking antibiotics and other medications unless they are essential;

• Since food allergies, particularly to wheat, can cause “leaky gut syndrome”, if you suspect you have one, get it checked out;

• Get appropriate (preferably natural) treatment for any chronic infection, including gut parasites, that may be disrupting your gut flora.

Along with the other advice contained in The Real Diabetes Truth, these simple steps provide some safe, low-cost ways of reducing your weight, cutting your risk of diabetes or minimising your reliance on dangerous diabetes medications. The number of prescriptions written for such drugs rocketed to an unbelievable 40 million last year, up 50 per cent in just five years, a trend that threatens to bankrupt the NHS if it continues. I shall be giving you the full story of how the drugs companies have turned diabetes into a highly profitable “cash cow” in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


1. Zupancic ML, Cantarel BL, Liu Z, Drabek EF, Ryan KA, Cirimotich S, Jones C, Knight R, Walters WA, Knights D, Mongodin EF, Horenstein RB, Mitchell BD, Steinle N, Snitker S, Shuldiner AR, Fraser CM. Analysis of the gut microbiota in the Old Order Amish and its relation to the metabolic syndrome. PLoS One. 2012; 7(8):e43052. Epub 2012 Aug 15.

2. Muccioli GG, Naslain D, Bäckhed F, Reigstad CS, Lambert DM, Delzenne NM, Cani PD. The endocannabinoid system links gut microbiota to adipogenesis. Mol Syst Biol. 2010 Jul; 6:392

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Category: Obesity and Weight Loss

Comments (2)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. Grant says:

    Could you please give a better description on;
    1.Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates?
    What are they?

    2.Get appropriate (preferably natural) treatment for any chronic infection, including gut parasites, that may be disrupting your gut flora. What Flora?


    • admin says:

      Gut flora: The good bacteria accuring naturally in your stomach i.e gut flora.

      Processed foods: Processed meats like ham, sausages bacon etc. In other words not organic.

      Refined carbohydrates: Pasta, bread, pretzels, potato chips, cookies, cakes, cupcakes and donuts (anything made/ baked with white flour)