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Why gut microbes are your `winter buddies`

Washington: The winter is upon us and with it comes the time to take out the heavy coats and thick gloves, but also the time, if a recent study is to be believed, for your gut bacteria to remodel your weight.

Exposure to cold temperatures is known to mimic the effects of exercise, protecting against obesity and improving metabolic health. The study reveals that the beneficial health effects of cold exposure are mediated in part by gut microbes.

The researchers found that cold exposure dramatically alters the composition of intestinal bacteria in mice and that this microbial shift is sufficient to burn fat, improve glucose metabolism, and reduce body weight.

“We provide compelling evidence that gut microbes play a key role in our ability to adapt to the environment by directly regulating our energy balance,” says senior study author Mirko Trajkovski of the University of Geneva. “We are excited about exploring the therapeutic potential of these findings and testing whether targeting some of these microbes could be a promising approach for preventing obesity and related metabolic conditions.”

One potential therapeutic avenue for obesity centers on promoting the formation of good types of body fat known as brown and beige fat. Human infants have large amounts of heat-generating brown fat to protect them from extreme cold, and scientists recently discovered that adult humans also retain brown fat stores consisting mainly of a subtype known as beige fat. Cold exposure or exercise can promote the formation of beige fat, thereby burning stored calories and protecting mammals from hypothermia, obesity, and metabolic problems.

The findings demonstrate that gut microbes enable mammals to harvest more energy from food as a way to adapt to the increased energy demand associated with long periods of cold exposure, thereby helping to protect against hypothermia, Trajkovski says. “We were surprised to see that gut microbes had such dramatic effects on the structure and function of the intestine.”

The study is published in Cell. (ANI)