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Obese Children, Teens Exhibit Different Gut Flora Composition

Targeting specific types of bacteria might one day help treat childhood obesity, research suggests

overweight girl

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children and adolescents have different gut flora composition than their normal-weight peers, according to a study published online Sept. 20 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Researchers analyzed the gut bacteria and weight of 84 young people between the ages of 7 and 20. Of these children, 27 were obese, 35 were severely obese, seven were overweight, and 15 were normal weight. The children and teens underwent magnetic resonance imaging to assess their body fat distribution. They also gave blood samples and kept track of what they ate in a food diary for three days.

The study authors found eight groups of gut bacteria that were linked to the amount of fat in the body. Four of them thrived more in the young people who were obese. Smaller amounts of the other four bacteria groups were found in the young people who were obese versus those who were a normal weight. The researchers noted the gut bacteria of the obese children were usually more efficient at digesting carbohydrates than the bacteria found in those who were not overweight. The researchers also found that obese children more often had higher levels of short chain fatty acids in their blood than the normal-weight children.

"Our research suggests that short chain fatty acids can be converted to fat within the liver and then accumulate in the fat tissue," senior author Nicola Santoro, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., said in a journal news release. "This association could signal that children with certain gut bacteria face a long-term risk of developing obesity."

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