Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Additional evidence that obesity may be due to environment, not just habits

Posted 09 Sep 2013 / 0

NPR ShotsGut Bacteria We Pick Up As Kids Stick With Us For Decades

NPR ShotsStaying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes

NPR ShotsDiverse Gut Microbes, A Trim Waistline And Health Go Together

NPR ShotsHow A Change In Gut Microbes Can Affect Weight

What I find interesting here is the potentially-destructive feedback loop caused by diets high in processed foods: microbiomes may shift in a way that fosters obesity, and of course the dietary profile of high-carbohydrate processed foods are also already highly caloric. What these studies call into question is the relative strength of these two factors: can an obese person who shifts her diet also shift her microbiome sufficiently to cause a shift towards a more healthy body weight? Or will we need to help people shifting their diets by repopulating their gut flora with a healthy mix of bacteria? I guess we will have to come up with a different method than the mice, huh?

The other element of this research that is absolutely fascinating is that it suggests that an acquired characteristic — the microbes we pick up from our environment, including that created by our parents — is critical to our health and well-being. Lamarck certainly is having his comeback with human beings: not only is our culture a critical acquired characteristic, but apparently so is the culture of microbes we house on our epithelial tissues. This should give pause to anyone who focuses too much on natural selection as the producer of human success (unless you like to define natural selection “up” to anything that succeeds).

A Minor Post, Coevolution, Cultural Evolution, Health & Medicine, Human Evolution, Mismatch theory, Mutualism, Radio & Podcasts

Leave a Reply