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What is the relationship between obesity and gut bacteria?

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Much has been made of the possible relationship between obesity and gut bacteria. Rather than the simplistic view of obesity that once posited that obesity was always simply a matter of consuming too many calories or being too sedentary, modern research has revealed that a number of factors contribute to obesity. This has helped lead to epidemic levels of obesity, which has a domino effect on other health issues.  Determining which factors help influence obesity is one of the keys to fighting this epidemic. Gut bacteria is one of these factors. 

The human digestive tract is host to a number of different bacteria.  In fact, by the time humans are born they already have millions of beneficial bacteria in their guts.  However, the composition of gut bacteria changes over time.  The changes can be the result of diet, from medications, or other lifestyle issues.  The belief is that imbalanced gut bacteria can lead to both obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders.  Gut bacteria can play a role in how the body processes energy.  It can influence how the body uses energy from the diet.  It can also help determine how genes regulate how the body spends energy. This has led to speculation that manipulating gut bacteria could help prevent obesity or could be used as a treatment for obesity. 

An essay could focus on the different studies showing that differences in gut bacteria lead to metabolic differences or it could look at different ways to manipulate gut bacteria, including probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, and fecal transplants. One interesting focus for an academic essay would be looking at how gut bacteria aids in digestion.  This might look at the role that gut bacteria play in vitamin production, avoiding illness, and helping break down soluble fiber.

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