Breath Test May Determine Liklihood of Obesity

breath_obesityCould scientists determine if you are likely to develop obesity through a simple breath test?

Unlikely as it may seem, new research indicates that the content of a person’s breath may reveal his susceptibility to gaining weight.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that individuals whose breath has high concentrations of both hydrogen and methane gases are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and percentage of body fat.  The prevalence of these two gases can indicate obesity-related microorganisms inhabiting the gut.

The study included an analysis on the breath content of nearly 800 people. From the test, the researchers found that people either had normal breath content, higher concentrations of methane, higher levels of hydrogen, or higher levels of both methane and hydrogen. Those who tested positive for high concentrations of both gases had significantly higher BMI’s and more body fat. Larger amounts of hydrogen and methane gases are exhaled when a microorganism called Methanobrevibacter smithii (M. smithii) colonizes the digestive tract.  Normally, the microorganisms work together in balance, but when someone has an abundance of M. smithii, it may shift the balance in a way that promotes weight gain and fat accumulation.  M. smithii scavenges hydrogen from other microorganisms and uses it to produce methane, which is eventually exhaled by the human body.

Researchers theorize this interaction helps neighboring hydrogen-producing bacteria thrive and extract nutrients from food more efficiently. Over time, this may contribute to weight gain. These microorganisms also may play a role in insulin signaling and regulation.

This the first large-scale human study to show an association between body weight and gas production. The findings are published in this month’s edition of the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Related Reading: Diabetes May Start in the Intestines

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