Methane-producing gut bacteria linked to diabetes and obesity

Dr Ruchi Mathur from the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has been exploring a possible link between microorganisms found in the gut and an increased risk of developing obesity and diabetes and she has already discovered that gut bacteria colonies producing methane can directly contribute to weight gain.

Some slowdown is the movement of food through the gut is good as more nutrients are absorbed from the food; this seems a responsibility for particular methane-producing bacteria, Methanobrevibacter smithii (M. smithii).

Dr. Mathur has observed that people with high intestinal concentrations of these bacteria tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI), more body fat, and elevated blood-sugar levels.  And such folk also extract a greater number of calories from the same volume of food as other people; this results in increased weight gain over time.

So, overabundance of methane producers may be behind some people who find it hard to lose weight.

Methane levels may be studied by breath tests, and Mathur is looking for people with high methane levels but who are not diabetic for her next experiments. Her aim is to provide a standard three-day diet plus a SmartPill that records information on gut motility and transit time as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract. Part two of the study will eliminate the bacterium using a targeted antibiotic, and then the experiment will rerun.

The aim is simple: If the trial shows that methane-producing bacteria contribute significantly to weight gain and insulin resistance, Mathur will develop techniques to reduce methane production and improve glucose metabolism.

This could delay or even prevent diabetes.