Could a 'gastric bypass in a pill' spell an end to diets and be the key to tackling obesity
Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut promoted slimmingScientists say gastric bypasses also trigger different levels of bugs in the gut, which aid weight loss
19:56 GMT, 27 March 2013
00:49 GMT, 28 March 2013
Shedding the pounds without dieting, exercising or resorting to surgery sounds impossibly far-fetched.
But it could one day become a reality, thanks to probiotic tablets full of friendly bacteria – a ‘gastric bypass in a pill’.
The idea was developed from the observation that gastric bypass operations led to changes in bacteria in the gut, as well as quelling hunger and cravings for unhealthy food.
Surgery to transplant different bacteria into the gut – altering the make-up of the gut flora – promoted slimming, say researchers
US researchers studied mice before and after they had a gastric bypass.
Three weeks after surgery, they had lost almost a third of their body weight. But tests also showed that their intestines contained fewer of the bugs commonly found in the digestive tracts of fat individuals, and more of those associated with leanness.
The mice were also burning more energy, despite not doing more exercise.
The researchers, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, then took the ‘good bacteria’ and transferred it into lean mice.
These animals rapidly lost 5 per cent of their weight, despite not being put on a diet.
An altered balance of microbes in the gut can lead to weight loss
The scientists believe the effects could have been greater if the mice had been overweight.
The findings suggest that weight loss following gastric bypass surgery isn’t just due to the operation itself.
Changes in bacteria in the gut also play a role.
It is thought that the bacteria which colonise the digestive system after a gastric bypass produce chemicals which aid weight loss by speeding up the metabolism.
A better understanding of what the bacteria do could lead to new, effective treatments for obesity, one of which could be a pill packed with ‘friendly bacteria’.
But the study’s co-author, Dr Peter Turnbaugh, cautioned that the research is still at an early stage.
He said: ‘It might not be that we will have a magic pill that will work for everyone who’s slightly overweight.
'But if we can, at a minimum, provide some alternative to gastric bypass surgery that produces similar effects, it would be a major advance.’
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.