Fecal Microbiota Composition Differences In Children May Predict If A Child Will Become Overweight

An article in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition has published an experimental study suggesting that deviations in children’s gut microbiota predispose them towards obesity and are possible predictors as to how they will store energy (fat) in later life.

The experiment wanted to establish if early gut microflora composition can guide weight development throughout early childhood. What this is saying is that maybe the bacterial profile of a child’s gut flora may indicate if the child is going to become overweight or obese in childhood or adult life.

The experimenters chose groups of children both overweight and obese and a group of normal weight children. There were 25 and 24 in each group respectively. They were matched for gestational age, body mass index at birth, delivery method, duration of breast feeding, probiotic supplementation, antibiotic use and other criteria.

The early fecal microbiota composition was analysed by the latest methods of DNA analysis using polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) which is a highly accurate means of establishing the gut microflora profile.

The bifidobacterial numbers in fecal samples during infancy, were higher in children remaining normal weight than in children becoming overweight.
A similar tendency in children becoming overweight was also associated with a greater number of Staphylococcus aureus.

Aberrant compositional development of the gut microbiota precedes overweight, offering new possibilities for preventive and therapeutic applications in weight management.

This really suggests that it is now possible to screen children and predict which ones are likely to become overweight children and maybe eventually obese adults. So now it is time to ask if altering the microbiota would reverse this situation? If the microbiome was adjusted and corrected, would this alter the outcome for the children?

So this study establishes a co-variance. What we need to ask is if there is a causal relationship* and if so, which way does it go? Does the overweight child affect his microbiota by some other factor, or does the microbiota cause the overweight? If it is the latter, then we need to address this. The easy way to correct the aberrant microbiota would be by FMT; possibly even screening mothers to see if they are passing on a deficient microbiome and then considering FMT for the mothers.
What if tackling the obesity problem is as simple as this?

* A co-variance means that when one thing changes, another thing changes also. It does not establish that one affects the other either way around. For example, skirts got shorter and people increased their intake of alcohol over the same period of time. This means that skirt length and alcohol consumption co-vary. These statistics alone do not show whether shorter skirts make people drink more, or if drinking more made people wear shorter skirts. There was no causal relationship that could be inferred from the co-varying statistics alone. Other factors were involved.


Early differences in fecal microbiota composition in children may predict overweight1,2,3
Marko Kalliomäki, Maria Carmen Collado, Seppo Salminen and Erika Isolauri
Am J Clin Nutr March 2008 vol. 87 no. 3 534-538

Leave a Reply