Sci­en­tific find­ings open door for new weight-loss drug

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CHINA DAILY

Over­weight and obese peo­ple might be able to start los­ing weight by con­sum­ing ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria af­ter a dis­cov­ery by sci­en­tists at a top med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion in Shang­hai, who aim to use the find­ings to de­velop a new weight-loss drug.

Bac­teroides thetaio­taomi­cron, or BT, a bac­te­ria that re­sides in and dom­i­nates the hu­man in­testi­nal tract, was found to be able to lower fat con­tent in the diet and slow down weight gain, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers from the Shang­hai Na­tional Clin­i­cal Re­search Cen­ter for En­docrine and Metabolic Dis­eases at Shang­hai Rui­jin Hos­pi­tal.

The dis­cov­ery, pub­lished on­line by the sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture Medicine, has opened the door for fur­ther stud­ies on the bac­te­ria’s em­ploy­ment in food and drugs that are ex­pected to help lose weight, though more re­search still needs to be done to test its safety and ef­fi­ciency.

“In the past, ge­netic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors have been cited as the main causes of obe­sity,” said Ning Guang, chair­man of the cen­ter and an aca­demi­cian at the Chi­nese Academy of En­gi­neer­ing.

“But the mi­crobes liv­ing in the in­testi­nal tract are the first to ‘taste’ food and serve as the lead­ing cause of weight gain,” he said.

The find­ings have been re­leased at a time when the num­ber of obese peo­ple in China — al­ready the largest num­ber world­wide — con­tin­ues to rise and poses an in­creased health risk given the im­proved liv­ing stan­dards and preva­lence of modern seden­tary life­styles.

World­wide, more than 2 bil­lion peo­ple, or one-third of the global pop­u­la­tion, are now over­weight or obese, ac­cord­ing to a new study by The New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

The study found that obe­sity numbers have tripled in chil­dren and young adults in coun­tries like China, Brazil and In­done­sia. Those numbers are par­tic­u­larly trou­bling be­cause it means more young peo­ple are on track to be­come obese and de­velop health prob­lems.

But the sci­en­tists at Rui­jin Hos­pi­tal dis­cov­ered that BT has the ca­pa­bil­ity to me­tab­o­lize glu­ta­mate, the main in­gre­di­ent in MSG — the in­take of which could con­trib­ute to the high lev­els of over­weight adults.

How­ever, ex­perts warned that the diet and ge­netic back­ground of Chi­nese peo­ple are dif­fer­ent to those of Western­ers, and so are the mi­crobes in their in­testi­nal tract.

There­fore, the study re­sults are more rel­e­vant to help­ing de­velop a new weight-loss drug for Chi­nese peo­ple, rather than their Western coun­ter­parts.

Cao Chen in Shang­hai contributed to this story.

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