islamabad - Gut bacteria may influence weight during childhood and adolescence, say researchers, who found that the population of gut microbes among obese children and teenagers differs to that of normal-weight youth. Senior author Dr Nicola Santoro of the Department of Paediatrics at Yale University in New Haven, CT, and colleagues conducted this research.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the past 30 years, obesity rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents.  These rising rates have fuelled a major public health concern; youths who are obese are more likely to be obese in adulthood, which may raise their risk for stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. As such, there is a need to identify strategies that may help prevent or treat childhood obesity, and Dr Santoro and team believe they may be one step closer to such a strategy.

Their study included 84 children and adolescents aged 7-20 years, of whom seven were overweight, 15 were normal weight, 27 were obese, and 35 were severely obese.

The researchers analyzed the gut microbiota - the population of microbes living in the intestine - and blood samples of all participants; blood samples were assessed for levels of short-chain fatty acids, which are produced by some forms of gut bacteria.

Participants also underweight magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which allowed the researchers to measure body fat distribution.