LOS ANGELES — In the latest of a slew of studies examining the role of the so-called microbiome — the mix of microscopic critters that colonize our bodies and our environment — in human health, Harvard researchers said Wednesday that part of the reason that Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery works so well in helping people lose weight is because it causes changes in the mix of bacteria in our bellies.
The discovery suggests that doctors might someday be able to mimic the microbial effects of weight-loss surgery without putting patients under the knife, said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-senior author of a report detailing the research in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The ability to achieve even some of these effects without surgery would give us an entirely new way to treat the critical problem of obesity,” he said, in a statement.
It had been known that people and rats who have Roux-en-Y surgery, which reduces the stomach’s capacity and bypasses some of the intestine, experience changes in the bacterial populations that inhabit their digestive systems.
But researchers were uncertain whether the surgery it self caused the shifts, or if the changes resulted from subsequent weight loss.