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The Bugs Inside You Are Eating Your Food And Making You Fat

The Bugs Inside You Are Eating Your Food And Making You Fat

Fat shaming is prevalent in the U.S. Making people (especially women) feel embarrassed, guilty, lazy, or just bad about their weight is practically a national pastime. One particularly inane example: shaming pregnant women for gaining weight. Um, aren’t they supposed to do just that? Another example: A blog called Skinny Gossip spewed venom at Kate Upton for being fat. Kate Upton? Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition cover model Kate Upton? If she is fat, the vast majority of women are shaped like walruses.

Criticizing fat shaming is also trending. People defending the overweight argue that many factors beyond an individual’s control may cause weight gain, including genetics, inaccessibility of healthful foods and medications with side effects. (Plus, some overweight people are just not caught up in our collective mania to be thin.)

Now we can add one more factor to the list of things that may make people fat: bugs in the gut.

You may want to take a moment here to get over the willies. Yes, there are microbes living in your gut and every other part of you — in fact [GROSS ALERT], the microbial cells in our bodies outnumber our human cells. Blame the New York Times for that tidbit.

Some of these microbes are very beneficial, including the ones that help us digest food and keep our teeth healthy. Others are less welcome, like those that cause dandruff. Then there are the truly evil ones that may increase fat.

The dark force that seems to cause weight gain is called Methanobrevibacter smithii (M. smithii). The more M. smithii bugs you have, the more you are likely to weigh. They do their dirty work by snatching away the nutrients in the food a person eats, leaving him/her feeling unsatisfied and likely to eat more.

I see two good nuggets in this discovery by Dr. Lee Kaplan of Massachusetts General Hospital and his research team. One: a simple breathalyzer test can detect excess M. smithii. Two: we can add one more point to the list of reasons fat shaming is stupid and useless.

So about that breathalyzer: the more methane and hydrogen in a person’s breath, the more likely they are hosting M. smithii, have higher body mass indexes and more body fat, and weigh more. Also, the more likely they are to burp and fart. Such a charming microbe.

Another study (whose subjects were mice, so take this with a handful of salt) found that one way gastric bypass surgery may help patients lose weight is by changing their microbial demographics.

Researchers are studying ways to kill off M. smithii without hurting all the good, pro-teeth microbes or resorting to anything as drastic as gastric bypass surgery. If they succeed, maybe one day losing weight will be as easy as popping some antibiotics.

That would be welcome news to fat people particularly hurt by fat-shaming, but for those happy with their weight it could pose a dilemma: change their bodies to avoid fat-shaming, or stay as they are and keep on truckin’. Either way, it looks like it will be a long time before anyone has to make this choice.


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Arizona School Sends Overweight Kids Home With Notes

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9:46AM PDT on Jun 3, 2013

A great documentary is "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." It's available on Netflix. It's how people got thinner and healthier with vegetable juicing. I know it doesn't sound interesting, but it really is a good show as this guy travels across America. Also animation on human cells is fun to watch. Everybody who has watched it that I've talked to said it has improved their dietary habits.

P.S. The human body is at least 90% bacterial in nature! We got the good, the bad, and the ugly bugs.

1:27AM PDT on Jun 3, 2013

try to eat REAL foods...not these processed "dead & plastic" processed foods. maybe being/becoming "fat" is an adverse reaction to eating SHIT!

7:39PM PDT on May 31, 2013

OK so now obese people can blame it on bugs please. How about leave the plate & walk a little

3:34PM PDT on May 27, 2013


5:47AM PDT on May 25, 2013

thank you

9:39AM PDT on May 24, 2013

Nice to know.

8:04AM PDT on May 24, 2013

Staying fat or making yourself thin aren't two sides of a choice, it isn't as straightforward as saying 'you know what, I'll be thin now!' or we all would be by now.

Also, fat-shaming is a form of bullying and the answer to bullying is not for the person being bullied to change. Interesting article apart from the carelessness of implying that being and remaining fat is a choice.

7:51AM PDT on May 24, 2013

So how do we get rid of these bad guys

9:00PM PDT on May 23, 2013

"Microbial cells in our bodies outnumber our human cells. Blame the New York Times for that tidbit."
Um, the New York Times may have had an article about it, but it didn't break the story. Biologists have known for years that all "higher" life forms are dependent on bacteria. In fact, mitochondria (famous for tracing the female bloodline) are, in essence, bacteria that live INSIDE human cells.

Now, about the "truly evil" bugs. The microbes that lead to weight gain won't win any popularity contests, but our cultural (or should I say "media") obsession with "thinness" is more evil than the microbe. Antibiotic resistant flesh eating bacteria - if you're looking for an "evil" bug, that should be close to the top of your list.

To madeleine w: The only "poisons" added to our food are the result of Big-Pharma selling 80% of the antibiotics to factory farms. The meat from animals raised this way are more likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria (and are likely to cause a disturbance of our own "internal fauna").

It's not so much that our food supply is poisoning us. It's more that we are being poisoned by food producers who are driven to produce higher yields "and damn the consequences."

2:47PM PDT on May 23, 2013


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