Microbes may just be the next diet craze. Researchers have programmed bacteria to generate a molecule that, through normal metabolism, becomes a hunger-suppressing lipid. Mice that drank water laced with the programmed bacteria ate less, had lower body fat, and staved off diabetes, even when fed a high-fat diet, offering a potential weight-loss strategy for humans. The team will describe its approach in one of nearly 11,000 presentations being given at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, taking place in Denver from March 22, 2015 through March 26, 2015. Obesity strongly increases the risk for developing several diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. One in three Americans is obese, and efforts to stem the epidemic have largely failed. Lifestyle changes and medication typically achieve only modest weight loss, and most people regain the weight. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that the population of microbes living in the gut may be a key factor in determining the risk for obesity and related diseases, suggesting that strategically altering the gut microbiome may impact human health. One advantage to microbial medicine would be that it is low maintenance, says Sean Davies (photo), Ph.D. His goal is to produce therapeutic bacteria that live in the gut for six months or a year, providing sustained drug delivery. This is in contrast to weight-loss drugs that typically need to be taken at least daily, and people tend not to take their medications as directed over time. "So we need strategies that deliver the drug without requiring the patient to remember to take his/her pills every few hours," Dr. Davies says.
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