A team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, have found that the benefits of gastric bypass surgery, in which the stomach of a patient is shrunk to the size of a walnut, can be passed on without surgery. “The team performed a gastric bypass on mice and then fed microbes from their lower intestine to other healthy mice. The mice fed the bacterial cocktail lost five per cent of their body weight in two weeks, compared with mice on the same diet who had not been fed the bacteria.” In the future, a cocktail of gastric bacteria may provide an alternative to weight-loss surgery.
What’s the Big Idea?
Researcher Carel le Roux of University College Dublin, Ireland, who was not involved in the study, has argued that besides cutting caloric intake, gastric bypass exerts subtle, yet strong, physiological effects. “It changes how the gut talks to the brain,” said le Roux, producing changes in gut bacteria, hormones, bile acids and nerve connections. “It is not yet clear exactly why giving mice gut bacteria from mice that have had a bypass leads to weight loss. The researchers suggest that the gut bacteria present following surgery may reduce the ability of the intestines to absorb calories, or may alter signals regulating metabolism.”