Obesity Bug On Breath? New Study Helps Researchers Better Understand Weight Gain

By iScienceTimes Staff on March 26, 2013 5:54 PM EDT

fat
The presence of a particular bacterium on the breath may be an indicator of obesity. (Photo: Creative Commons)

An obesity bug on your breath can tell you if you're at risk for obesity, a new study purports. Researchers in Los Angeles say the presence of a particular bacterium on the breath may be an indicator of obesity. Beyond declaring the obvious, the study of the obesity bug on the breath will help doctors better understand why some people are more predisposed to gaining weight than others.  

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Researchers, led by Dr. Ruchi Mathur, head of the Diabetes Outpatient Treatment and Education Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, CA, studied 792 people of all ages and sizes. The Los Angeles Times reports that the people who expelled more methane and hydrogen in their breath had higher body mass indexes and percentages of body fat than the other participants with "normal" levels of these gases in their breath. The results of the study seem to indicate that the more methane and hydrogen in the breath, the higher the body fat. The presence of the microorganisms living in the digestive tract may tell us why some of people gain weight.

As UPI reports, the microorganism is called Methanobrevibacter smithii. Higher levels of methane in the breath means a higher concentration of this bacteria in the person's body. This bacteria is associated with metabolism. The more of it, the more likely people are to accumulate fat because the bacteria is believed to increase the availability of calories for its host by possibly slowing the movement of nutrients through the body, according to the LA Times.

From WebMD:

This study adds to the growing evidence that breath tests can provide information about our health, said Dr. Raed Dweik, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. "The argument that the authors make is that if we change the bacteria in the gut, we may change obesity and these people will not gain weight as easily," he said. "If we modify the bacteria in the gut, they may lose weight faster or easier."

Obesity is very common in the U.S., with more than one-third of U.S. adults considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also extremely costly, with medical expenses for obesity related issues reaching $147 billion in 2008. Among the most obese states in the U.S. are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina. Health conditions associated with being overweight include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. These are some of the leading causes of preventable death.

The study will be published in April's issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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