Aug 14 2016

Clear Connection to Obesity and Gut Flora

Published by at 11:21 am under probiotic supplements

Researchers connect obesity to social behavior in mice…could it be the same for humans?
Scientists discover an important possible link to social behavior and it is tied to the gut.


Researcher Mauro Costa-Mattioli of Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, recently published research in Cell, that suggest in mice, a “…clear relationship does exist between gut flora, obesity and social behavior…”1*

 Along with colleague Shelly Buffington, Dr. Costa-Mattioli conducted a series of experiments over an eight week period in which they fed 100 female mice a normal diet or a high fat diet. They then impregnated the mice and examined the behavior and gut flora of the babies. They observed how they interacted with other mice and inanimate objects. They also studied their feces to see what bacteria populated it.1* 

“…One of the less-known problems of obesity is that obese mothers are 50% more likely than those of normal weight to give birth to children who go on to develop autism. This correlation is perplexing, but some suspect it is connected to differences between the gut bacteria of the overweight and those who are not. ..”1*

Researchers found that the offspring of the “obese” mice had problems with social interaction. They interacted with other mice for only 22 seconds during a 10 minute period, compared with two minutes of social interaction for the offspring of the normal weight mice. Additionally, when given the choice of interacting with an empty cup or another mouse, 55% of the obese mice offspring, chose the cup. This is in comparison to ALL the mice of the normal weight offspring choosing other mice.1*

“…As expected, the gut bacteria of the obese mothers and their offspring were quite different from, and less diverse than, those of other mice…” The researchers questioned whether restoring their micro biomes to a “normal” balance of bacteria  would improve their social behavior. So during the next step of their experiment, they took advantage of the mice’s tendency to eat each other’s feces and put the offspring of the obese mothers in a cage with the normal weight mothers, in an effort to balance their gut flora. Miraculously, their social interactions developed normally.1*

The next step was to examine the bacteria present in the mice whose mothers were obese compared to the normal weight mothers. One bacteria in particular seemed to be lacking in the guts of the obese mice, Lactobacillus reuteri. Normal weight mice had nine times more of this bacteria than the obese mice. This same strain was shown in the past to promote the release of oxytocin, the hormone that plays an important role in controlling mammalian social behavior.  So, Dr. Costa-Mattioli and Dr. Buffington added L. reuteri to both types of mouse’s drinking water , and also had a control group which drank plain filtered water or water that had been heated to kill off the L. reuteri. Their conclusion?1*

“…Among the offspring of obese mothers, those given the live bacteria developed normally while the control mice developed social problems.  This suggested L. reuteri does indeed promote the release of oxytocin in the developing brain, which then helps mice to develop normal social behavior. To reinforce their case, the investigators dissected the brains of the animals involved in the last experiment and counted up the number of oxytocin producing cells therein. As they suspected offspring of obese mothers that were in the control arms of the experiment had 29% fewer such cells than did offspring of normal mothers. Those given L. reuteri in their water, by contrast, had only 13% fewer. That apparently was enough to abolish detectable behavioural differences…”1*

As to whether doctors and scientists will reach the same conclusion in humans is unknown but it is something they will most certainly be exploring. “…If examining the gut floras of autistic children and their mothers (whether or not those mothers are obese) even hinted at something homologous happening in human beings, then dosing infants who might be at risk with L. reuteri could be a sensible idea…”1*

The vast world of the microbiome continues to be an exploding area of research for scientists and doctors as they continue to tap into the vital importance of maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria. At Body Bioticsâ„¢ we will continue to follow this type of in-depth research taking place that explores how our microbes shape our health and those of our children. Our BODY BIOTICSâ„¢ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortiaâ„¢, which was developed more than 30 years ago, was built on this knowledge that the gut is at the core of all our health and a strong immune system, and still offers the same health benefits in this original formula that it has for all these years. It is exciting to see all the new research that continues to surface about the microbiome and see what keys to our health it uncovers.*

Healthiest wishes,




  1. The Economist, Microbes and Autism, Gut Feelings, June 18th-24th, 2016

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