One in three adults on the planet is overweight.
The World Health Organization data are not promising. Bringing down those numbers is turning out to be a colossal challenge given that throughout the entirety of evolutionary history, humans have been and still are programmed to defend against starvation, not obesity. Dieting doesn’t work for most. The weight comes right back on.
Our microbes are being considered. Scientists know that heavy people have different microbes than lean people. And transplanting bacterial populations in mice can also transform weight gain patterns.
One recent experiment from Ukraine looked at the effect of probiotic therapy on obese rats. The rats were induced to become obese by a neonatal administration of monosodium glutamate (MSG). An injection of MSG at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 days after birth produced visceral fat (abdominal) and metabolic syndrome (a collection of miscreants which can include high triglycerides, high blood pressure and high blood sugar as well as central obesity)
The probiotic mixture contained strains of Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium animalis.
In the rats treated with probiotics, weight and body mass index did not differ from those untreated. But there were positives in the probiotic group:
- Visceral fat mass was lower by 38%
- Lipid metabolism improved: low (LDL) as well as very low density lipoproteins (VLDL)were lower (by 30% and 32% respectively) asnd high density lipoproteins (HDL) were 25% higher
- Hormones involved in appetite control and fat metabolism normalized.
Some may say I “buried the lede” as journalists call missing the most interesting aspect of a story.
MSG causes obesity?
Apparently it was a quick way to add fat in Ukraine labs.
Quick review: MSG is a form of a simple amino acid that is a building block of protein. Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda discovered in 1908 that an amino acid called glutamic acid was giving the flavor to the seaweed “konbu,” a soup essential that had been used for many centuries in Japan.
Since that time the sodium salt of glutamic acid, or MSG, has been used as a seasoning around the world. Worldwide consumption has soared in recent decades. MSG makes food taste better by tricking your tongue using a little-known fifth basic taste: umami.
MSG has been linked to weight gain in humans. In a 2008 study, 752 healthy middle-aged men and women were randomly selected in three rural villages in China. Most prepared their foods at home without use of commercially processed foods. Interviewers weighed MSG amounts added in food preparation. MSG users were more overweight than non-users.
Dr. Ka He of the University of North Carolina who conducted the research said the results showed an association but not a cause-effect relationship.
In a 2011 survey, also by Ka and colleagues, of more than 10,000 adults in China observed for more than five years, those who ate the most MSG (about 5 grams a day) were 30 percent more likely to become overweight in that time.
Here are possible explanations:
- Foods taste better with MSG, so we eat more.
- Chronic MSG may swamp neurons and disrupt leptin leading to leptin resistance which keeps appetite high.
- Insulin may be disrupted by MSG.
Not all research points to a connection in humans so this inquiry remains open.
In closing, revisit the original research: bacteria offset some of the damage done by MSG. Good news for all Chinese food lovers.