Article image

Gut bacteria linked to obesity is different in men and women

In recent years, the role of gut bacteria in human health has come under increasing scrutiny. Now, an intriguing study has shed new light on the complex relationship between the gut microbiome bacteria and obesity, revealing intriguing differences between men and women.

Metabolic health, gut bacteria, and obesity

The study, led by Dr. Paula Aranaz from the Centre for Nutrition Research at the University of Navarra in Spain, was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Venice, Italy.

The research team analyzed metagenomic and metabolomic data from a Spanish population to understand how gut bacteria influence the development of obesity.

The gut microbiota, a diverse community of microorganisms inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract, plays a crucial role in metabolic health.

Disruption in this delicate balance, known as dysbiosis, can significantly impact the risk of certain diseases, including obesity.

However, the specific species that contribute to or protect against obesity, and their impact on metabolic health, have remained elusive until now.

Unraveling the gut bacteria-obesity connection

To unravel the gut-obesity connection, the researchers examined the fecal metabolome — a diverse collection of small molecules produced by gut bacteria as a byproduct of metabolizing food. These metabolites make their way into the bloodstream, influencing overall health.

The study included 361 adult volunteers (251 women and 110 men) from the Spanish Obekit study, a randomized trial examining the relationship between genetic variants and the response to a hypocaloric diet.

Participants were classified according to their obesity (OB) index, based on factors such as BMI, fat mass percentage, and waist circumference.

Christensenella minuta: Potential ally in the obesity fight

The analysis revealed that individuals with a high OB index had significantly lower levels of Christensenella minuta, a bacterium consistently linked to leanness and health.

This finding suggests that Christensenella minuta may play a protective role against obesity.

“Gut microbiome composition, specifically higher levels of the Christensenella minuta bacterium, appeared to protect against obesity,” explains Dr. Aranaz.

Gender differences in obesity-associated gut bacteria

Intriguingly, the study also uncovered gender-specific differences in the gut bacteria associated with obesity.

In men, greater abundance of Parabacteroides helcogenes and Campylobacter canadensis species was strongly associated with higher BMI, fat mass, and waist circumference.

In contrast, three Prevotella species — Prevotella micans, Prevotella brevis, and Prevotella sacharolitica — were highly predictive of these obesity markers in women, but not in men.

“The species that influence the risk of developing obesity appear to be different between the sexes and interventions to help prevent an obesity-favorable microbiome may need to be different in men and women,” notes Dr. Aranaz.

Further metabolomic analyses revealed variations in the abundance of certain metabolites, particularly bioactive lipids such as phospholipids and sphingolipids, in participants with a high OB index.

These lipids have been implicated in the development of metabolic diseases, including diabetes and vascular complications.

Dr. Aranaz emphasizes the significance of these findings, noting, “Our findings reveal how an imbalance in distinct bacterial groups are likely to play an important role in the onset and development of obesity, with considerable differences between the sexes, which might affect the metabolism of different bioactive molecules present in the metabolome that influence the development of metabolic disease.”

Future of precision nutrition in obesity prevention

The study demonstrates the power of combining metagenomics and metabolomics to study the mechanisms involved in the development of metabolic diseases like obesity.

This novel, broader approach could pave the way for precision nutrition strategies aimed at modifying the presence of specific bacterial strains or the levels of bioactive molecules to promote weight loss.

“We hope that this study demonstrates that using metagenomics in combination with metabolomics enables researchers to study the mechanisms involved in the development of metabolic diseases such as obesity with a high degree of confidence,” said Dr. Aranaz.

“This novel, broader approach could help to develop nutritional precision strategies for weight loss that modify the presence of specific bacteria strains, or the levels of bioactive molecules,” he concluded.

Implications and future obesity treatments

In summary, this important study unveils the intricate relationship between gut bacteria, gender, and obesity. By combining metagenomics and metabolomics, the researchers identify key bacterial species and bioactive molecules that influence the development of obesity.

The scientists highlighted the protective role of Christensenella minuta and the gender-specific differences in obesity-associated gut bacteria.

These findings lay the foundation for the development of precision nutrition strategies that target specific bacterial strains and metabolites, offering a promising avenue for personalized obesity prevention and treatment in the future.

More about Christensenella minuta and obesity

As discussed above, Christensenella minuta is a species of bacteria that resides in the human gut. It belongs to the Christensenellaceae family, which is a relatively new addition to the known human gut microbiota.

Researchers first identified and named this family in 2012, and since then, it has garnered significant attention for its potential role in promoting health and preventing obesity.

How Christensenella minuta influences health

Several studies, including the study discussed previously in this article, have consistently linked the presence of Christensenella minuta in the gut with leanness and overall health.

Individuals with higher levels of this bacteria tend to have lower body mass index (BMI), reduced fat mass, and smaller waist circumference.

These findings suggest that Christensenella minuta may play a protective role against obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.

Potential mechanisms behind the benefits

While the exact mechanisms by which Christensenella minuta influences health are still under investigation, researchers propose several potential explanations:

  • Christensenella minuta may help regulate energy balance by influencing the way the body processes and stores nutrients.
  • This bacteria may modulate the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are known to have anti-inflammatory and metabolic health-promoting properties.
  • Christensenella minuta might interact with other gut bacteria, shaping the overall composition and function of the gut microbiome in a way that favors leanness and health.

Christensenella minuta and the future of obesity

As the scientific community continues to unravel the complex relationship between gut bacteria and human health, Christensenella minuta has emerged as a promising target for further research. Future studies may focus on:

  • Understanding the factors that influence the abundance of Christensenella minuta in the gut, such as diet, lifestyle, and genetics.
  • Exploring the potential of probiotics or other interventions that aim to increase the levels of Christensenella minuta in the gut.
  • Investigating the role of Christensenella minuta in other aspects of health, beyond obesity and metabolic disorders.

As we deepen our understanding of this fascinating gut bacteria, we may unlock new strategies for promoting health, preventing obesity, and personalizing nutrition based on an individual’s unique gut microbiome composition.

The full study was published by the European Congress on Obesity.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day