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Gastric Bypass Benefits Without Gastric Bypass?

Published: April 1, 2013

Gastric bypass surgery may alter gastrointestinal microbes that promote weight loss, which researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University in Boston believe could solve the nation's obesity epidemic through non-surgical treatment options.

Microbes found in the guts of the obese differ from those found in lean individuals, say the researchers, but those differences are minimized following gastric bypass surgery. Does surgery or the subsequent weight loss contribute to those changes?

To find out, the researchers treated mice on high-fat, high-carbohydrate diets with either a form of gastric bypass, a sham procedure (a portion of the GI tract was separated, then reconnected) with continuation of the fatty diet, or a sham procedure combined with a reduced-calorie diet.

One week later, gastrointestinal microbes in mice that underwent bypass surgery changed significantly to resemble those found in lean individuals, according to the study's findings, published in the March 27 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. The bypass mice lost 30% of their body weight 3 weeks after the procedure and, according to metabolic factors, expended more energy with no changes in activity levels than the mice treated with sham procedures.

In addition, lean mice with microbe-free GI systems that received samples of gastrointestinal contents from bypass mice groups showed significant weight loss after 2 weeks. Microbe-free mice that received samples from both sham groups, on the other hand, showed no change in weight.

"Our study suggests that the specific effects of gastric bypass on the microbiota contribute to its ability to cause weight loss," says Lee Kaplan, MD, PhD, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at MGH and the study's co-corresponding author. "Finding ways to manipulate microbial populations to mimic those effects could become a valuable new tool to address obesity."

Daniel Cook

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