Probiotics Learning Lab Impartially created by the experts at OptiBac

A brand new Cornell-led study published yesterday in the journal Cell gives us fresh and compelling evidence that our genetic make up can determine our gut bacteria, and that these in turn can influence whether we are fat or thin. Could this be the first step to personalised probiotics and disease risk prediction?

twin babies
This study found that identical twins share very similar gut bactera

The researchers looked at faecal samples from 416 pairs of twins, comprising of 171 identical and 245 fraternal twins. The genomes of these twins had also been sequenced at King’s College giving the researchers the ability to rank which microbes in the human gut are heritable.

Julia Goodrich, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and the paper’s first author said that they found that identical twins shared similar gut bacteria whereas fraternal twins, who only share half the number of genes don’t have the same similarities in gut bacteria. Furthermore, as the twins are raised in the same households it was safe to assume that environmental influences were going to be very similar to one another. Therefore it was clear that gut bacteria appears to be highly influenced by the child’s inherited genetics.

Could knowing our genes be the answer to understanding our weight?

Not only this, but the researchers identified that the Christensenellaceae bacterial family is not only highly heritable but also more common in thinner individuals. Additionally to this, one particular species of this class of bacteria, Christensenellaceae minuta, was found to protect against weight gain when transplanted into mice.

The study leader Dr Ruth Ley, associate professor in the department of microbiology at Cornell University, said even though their initial findings had suggested the bacterium could be contributing to a "lean phenotype", they had been fairly stunned to see its effect in mice and had repeated the experiment several times.

Read our blogpost on how gut bacteria may also influence food cravings

We find these very exciting results. This is a rapidly evolving field. Of course nutrition and lifestyle remain a very important aspect of weight loss, and gain. But yet again the question is raised as to whether the growing trend in obesity could be linked to our microbiome. There is growing evidence that the balance of our gut flora is influenced by modern life; the increased use of antibiotics and medications and our high sugar diet among other things. This research strengthens this theory. After all doesn’t the saying go that if you want to know what you will look like physically when you grow older then you just need to look at your parents?

The appealing aspect of this research is that it is another piece in the jigsaw giving us knowledge and therefore the power to regain control over our health. A genetic connection to the microbiome and consequently weight issues may be a step in the right direction in disease risk prediction and knowing how we can help ourselves.

You may also find our blog post on the affect of caesarean births on our microbiome interesting.

Co-authors of this study include Andrew Clark, Cornell professor of population genetics, and Timothy Spector, a professor of epidemiology at King’s College, among others.The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Cornell Center for Comparative Population Genomics, the Wellcome Trust and the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme.
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  • I have a WEIGHT PROBLEM!! I guess you have heard this many times. Since; I haven't been able to find a outlet to get "christenenellacae minuta" anywhere, is there any foods available that I could purchase on the market to HELP BUILD UP this missing member in my microbiome? Is there a way to 'introduce' this to my microbiome if it is genetically missing or increase the amounts if it's presence is in my gut already? I thank you for any help you might give me on the subject. What do you know about the: "Skinny Protocol Program" written by Garrett Branch that is on the internet at the present time? Again thank you for you time. Paul E. Brown, SLC, Utah 801-261-4357

  • Probiotics Learning Lab

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for your query.
    We do not currently offer a product in our range that contains the probiotic that you mention, although we are aware of the research that has been conducted using this bacterium. I am not familiar with any other supplements on the market that contain it, or of the ‘Skinny Protocol Program’ that you refer to, and I can only really advise you regarding the suitability and application of our own products.

    At the moment the research into probiotics for weight management is very exciting but still in the early stages, with limited clinical trial evidence. Hopefully in the next 5-10 years we’ll see some clinically researched strains coming on the market specifically for this purpose. We are keeping a keen eye on this area of research.

    You may be interested in some of the other blog posts we have written on our website on this topic, simply type ‘weight’ into our search box e.g.

    Please note that this is a non-promotional blog intended to provide general information about how bacteria can influence a person's weight. Do contact me on [email protected] if you have any further questions.

    Wishing you the best of health,

    Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut.Med.) BANT CNHC
    Customer Care and Nutritional Advisor
    OptiBac Probiotics
    T: +44 (0) 1264 369 936
    E: [email protected]

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