Childhood Obesity: New Study on Microbes

Guest BloggerMicrobiome Environment

Our children are getting fatter. Too much food and not enough exercise are the chief culprits for this global epidemic. Among other contributors, the microbiome is under suspicion.

Studies done mostly in animals but also some humans suggest why the microbiome is involved.

Microbes: mechanisms of action in obesity

  • Increasing energy harvest
  • Changing host metabolism
  • Activation of innate immunity
  • Lowering gut microbe richness and diversity

Conflicting studies point to a changed Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio but others show the exact opposite or no link at all. Specific bacteria also pop up in obesity but the types differ greatly.

These discrepancies may be due to the wide variables in assessment, study design and control of variables such as lifestyle and diet.

New study on microbes and weight in children

A new study from Catherine A. Mbakwa and colleagues in the Netherlands looked at the relation between gut microbiota composition and body weight in a large group of 295, healthy, school‐aged children.

The children—6 to 7 years old—were measured for BMIs. Results were published as Gut Microbiota and Body Weight in School‐Aged Children: The KOALA Birth Cohort Study in Obesity journal.


  • Weight‐related factors were not major drivers of microbial composition in the gut of relatively lean, healthy children.
  • Microbial diversity and richness, and Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio, were not significantly associated with any of the outcomes.
  • Specific bacterial taxa appear to be consistently associated with weight‐related outcomes: Akkermansia, UCII (previously linked to weight)) as well as novel species, such as S wadsworthensis and M formatexigens.

“More detailed information on their functional role in energy metabolism is needed to establish their importance for weight development. Our results provide new avenues to approach the increasing trend of overweight worldwide.”

Overweight and obese children will likely stay the same into adulthood. That extra weight sets them up for a slew of serious health problems including diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to breastfeeding exclusively for six months, the World Health Organization recommends that parents of young children should limit total fats and sugars, and increase fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and nuts. And get them outside to run around– every day.