Gut Bacteria Improving Fat Absorption
According to a study published last month in Cell Host & Microbe, the friendly microorganisms living in our gut may play a critical role in dietary fat absorption and metabolism, resulting in improved digestion and energy balance. Our diet is influential in determining the composition of microbiota inhabiting our gut. The findings suggest implications for modifying gut microbiota in preventing both obesity and malnutrition.
The study was performed on zebrafish, an organism often used in research because of the transparency of its embryos. In this case, the transparency allowed the scientists to directly observe the absorption and transport of the fluorescent-tagged fatty acids in the zebrafish.
Compared to zebrafish lacking microbiota, the microbiota-colonized zebrafish absorbed greater levels of fatty acids. This effect was even more pronounced when the zebrafish were in a fed versus starved state, suggesting that diet and the presence of food helps microbiota promote fatty acid absorption.
In another experiment, the researchers looked at what would happen to the composition of microbiota in starved versus fed animals and found that microbiome diversity was greater in fed conditions. It was a group of well-studied bacteria – Firmicutes – that appeared to be the key player in enhancing dietary fat absorption. Humans also have Firmicutes. In humans, studies have shown that increasing caloric intake also increases the abundance of gut Firmicutes.
Understanding how Firmicutes are enriched through diet could provide new strategies to control energy balance in humans, note the authors.
Source: Semova I et al. “Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Absorption and Metabolism of Fatty Acids in the Zebrafish. Cell Host & Microbe.” 2012; 12(3): 277-288. DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2012.08.003