Breaking News on Supplements, Health & Nutrition - Europe US edition | APAC edition

News > Research

Read more breaking news



Gut geography: Are obesity-linked gut bacteria more prevalent in northern areas?

By Nathan Gray+

Last updated on 17-Feb-2014 at 13:54 GMT2014-02-17T13:54:28Z

People living at more northern lattitudes have a different relative abundance ot key obesity-linked microbes, according to the new data.
People living at more northern lattitudes have a different relative abundance ot key obesity-linked microbes, according to the new data.

People living in cold, northern latitudes have a greater proportion of gut bacteria that may predispose them to obesity, according to new meta-analysis data.

Led byTaichi Suzuki from the University of California, Berkeley, the team behind the study noted that although it is known that there is considerable variation in gut microbial composition within host species, very little is known about how this variation is shaped and why such variation exists.

For example, in humans, obesity has been associated with the relative abundance of two dominant bacterial groups - an increase in the proportion of Firmicutes and a decrease in the proportion of Bacteroidetes.

The meta-analysis findings, pooled from more than 1,000 people living in 23 different populations and involved in six earlier studies, suggest that people living in northern latitudes have a greater proportion of the obesity-related bacteria Firmicutes in their microflora.

"People think obesity is a bad thing, but maybe in the past getting more fat and more energy from the diet might have been important to survival in cold places. Our gut microbes today might be influenced by our ancestors," said Suzuki, noting that one theory is that obesity-linked bacteria are better at extracting energy from food. "This suggests that what we call 'healthy microbiota' may differ in different geographic regions."

Gut geography

Suzuki reasoned that, since animals and humans in the north tend to be larger in size – an observation called Bergmann's rule – then perhaps their gut microbiota would contain a greater proportion of Firmicutes than Bacteriodetes.

"It was almost as a lark," explained senior author Professor Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona. "Taichi thought that if Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are linked to obesity, why not look at large scale trends in humans."

"When he came back with results that really showed there was something to it, it was quite a surprise."

Writing in Biology Letters, the Suzuki and his colleagues used data published in six previous studies, totalling 1,020 people from 23 populations in Africa, Europe, North and South America and Asia.

After analysing the data, he found that the proportion of Firmicutes increased with latitude and the proportion of Bacteriodetes decreased with latitude, regardless of sex, age, or detection methods.

Indeed, African Americans showed the same patterns as Europeans and North Americans, not the pattern of Africans living in tropical areas, he noted.

"This observation is pretty cool, but it is not clear why we are seeing the relationship we do with latitude," said Worobey. "There is something amazing and weird going on with microbiomes."

Indeed, the senior author added that the results are also fascinating from an evolutionary biology perspective.

"Maybe changes to your gut community of bacteria are important for allowing populations to adapt to different environmental conditions in lots of animals, including humans," he said.

Source: Biology Letters
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.1037
"Geographical variation of human gut microbial composition"
Authors: Taichi A. Suzuki, Michael Worobey

Related products

Live Supplier Webinars

Polyphenols tipped to become the way to innovate in Sports Nutrition
Alpha & Omega in Sports Nutrition – Using Omega 3’s and A-GPC to improve performance and recovery.
KD Pharma
Orally bioavailable standardized botanical derivatives in sport nutrition: special focus on recovery in post-intense physical activities
Collagen in motion: move freely and keep your injuries in check
Leading manufacturer of gelatine and collagen peptides
Life’s too short for slow proteins. Whey proteins hydrolysates: Fast delivery for enhanced performance
Arla Foods Ingredients
What it Takes to Compete and Win in Today’s Sports Nutrition Market
Sports Nutrition Snapshot: Key regional drivers and delivery format innovations
William Reed Business Media
Gutsy performance: How can microbiome modulation help athletes and weekend warriors
William Reed Business Media
Pushing the boundaries: Where’s the line between ‘cutting edge nutrition’ and doping
William Reed Business Media

On demand Supplier Webinars

High-amylose maize starch may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes: what does this qualified health claim mean?
Balancing Innovation and Risk in Sports Nutrition Ingredients
Explaining bio-hacking: is there a marketing opportunity for food companies?
William Reed Business Media
Personalized Nutrition – how an industry can take part in shaping the future of Nutrition
BASF Nutrition & Health
Find out Nutritional and ingredient lifecycle solutions and strategies!
Is the time rIpe for I-nutrition?
William Reed Business Media
The Advantage of Outsourcing Fermentation-based Manufacturing Processes
Evonik Health Care
All supplier webinars