Research Highlights

Gut flora diversity points to metabolic disorders

Published online 28 August 2013

Nature Middle East

Widespread obesity is becoming a global health problem. The diversity of species in a person's gut microbes differs between obese and non-obese individuals, and certain species of bacteria may serve as markers to identify individuals at risk of developing obesity-related diseases. Changes in microbial diversity are observed during diet-induced weight loss, and the species richness seems to indicate the effectiveness of an intervention.

S. Dusko Ehrlich, Oluf Pedersen and colleagues, including Jun Wang from King Abdulazziz University, Saudi Arabia, report marked differences in the composition of gut microbes in 169 obese and 123 non-obese Danish people. They show that, compared with individuals with a high diversity of species, those with low diversity have more metabolic abnormalities, such as increased body fat and insulin resistance. In addition, among this low-diversity group, obese individuals gained more weight over time. The work also supports recent evidence that gut microbes have a role in the development of metabolic diseases.

The researchers suggest that monitoring a few species of bacteria is enough to distinguish between people with high- and low- bacterial diversity, and even between lean and obese individuals. This can help identify people who are at an increased risk of developing metabolic disorders.


  1. Le Chatelier, E. et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12506