The gut microbiome and its relationship to fat distribution
The term "epidemic" should be known to everyone by 2020 at the latest. But not only viruses pose a danger for us, but also our way of life. Obesity, diabetes, elevated blood lipid levels and high blood pressure, collectively referred to as “metabolic syndrome”, are no longer isolated cases. Many scientific articles warn of the "epidemic of prosperity" because the effects are extremely damaging to the heart, vascular and other systems and can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
But where is the connection with the gut microbiome?
We'll explain that to you in more detail now:
A very important conclusion could be drawn from a study in which the gut microbiome was transplanted from obese, i.e. overweight, organisms into germ-free and healthy organisms. As a result, the previously normal-weight organisms also became overweight. A direct connection could therefore be established between the microbiome and obesity!
Now it's not the few kilos on the hips that are the problem, but the distribution of fat is the decisive factor. Because especially the abdominal fat in the abdominal cavity, the visceral fat, is dangerous. And here we come to the difference between men and women. Because the difference in fat distribution in both sexes can be represented schematically with the simple geometries of an apple and a pear.
The apple describes the centrally located and ball-shaped fat mass in men, the “android” fat distribution, while the pear depicts the curvy lines and fat distribution located more on the hips and buttocks, which is predominantly the case in women and as titled “gynoid” fat distribution. This does not rule out the possibility that there are also men with a pear shape or women with an apple-like shape and that intermediate shapes are also possible, but the designation is based on a trend.
To get to the point again: there is a gynoid and an android fat distribution, which can be present in both sexes. The android fat distribution, with a focus on the abdominal area, is associated with a greater risk, since it is a very metabolically active tissue with many messenger substances. Attention, we're not talking about the little dumpling graveyard that even a healthy person can carry with them, but about actual overweight!
In a study from 2019, the distribution of fat in men and women was measured in detail and the respective intestinal microbiome analyzed by genetic analysis. As a result, it was clearly established that the larger and more diverse the intestinal microbiome, the less android fat distribution prevails. So long live the diversity of the microbiome!
This is closely related to the sex hormones. For example, in children before puberty, in which the sex-specific hormones are not yet active in large quantities, there is no such separation in the microbiome composition. How exactly the sex hormones affect the intestinal bacteria is not yet known exactly, but it is of great interest for research, because:
The finding that the composition of the gut microbiome has an effect on fat distribution provides a great basis for future work on analysis methods for patients at risk and treatment options for people with metabolic and cardiovascular risk potential.
Until then, it's up to us to stay fit and work on our microbiome diversity :)
Turnbaugh, Peter J et al., An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest in: nature journal, 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1027-31. doi: 10.1038/nature05414
Min, Yan et al., Sex-specific association between gut microbiome and fat distribution in: Nat Commun 2019; 10: 2408