Gut Truthiness: Linking Obesity To Autism

Obese mothers are 50% more likely than those of normal weight to give birth to children who go on to develop autism. This correlation is perplexing, as most poeple believe that the mind and body are seperate. But some leading experts believe it is connected to differences between the gut bacteria of the overweight and of those who are not. A recent study by Dr. Costa-Mattioli’s team shows that,  in mice at least, a clear relationship does exist between gut flora, obesity and social behaviour exists.



Feed half of the mice on a high-fat diet, and the other half on a normal diet, get them pregnant, and monitor gut bacteria


Results suggest mouse’s gut bacteria is regulating it’s behavior.  To monitor behaviour, the researchers put the pups through tests that measured how long they spent interacting with strangers and with inanimate objects. Offspring of obese mothers tended to have problems socializing. On average, the mice interacted for 22 seconds during a ten minute interaction period.  And when presented with an option of socializing or having an empty cup, they chose the cup. Compared this to 2 minutes of interaction for offsrping of normal weight mothers.

Differences in Gut Bacteria Between Groups:

Lactobacillus reuteri  was 9 times more abundant in normal weight mothers than obese mice. Years ago, L. reuteri  was shown to promote the release of oxytocin, a chemical responsible for controlling social behavior.

 Lactobacillus reuteri was added to the water of offspring of obese mothers to test the effects of adding the bacterium to the water of the offspring to see if they could reverse the effects. It turned out that giving obese mice the chemical did help improved their social behavior in tests. The team went a step further by dissecting their brains and counting the number of oxytocin producing cells therein. Offspring of obese mothers had 29% less oxytocin . However, given the water with L reuteri, the mice had 13% less than offspring of normal weight mice.

Show me what you eat, all I’ll tell you what you are. Cliche, but true for a reason.



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