Skip to main content

Obesity does not damage your knees, microbes do!

Difference between a normal knee and one affected by osteoarthritis.
Difference between a normal knee and one affected by osteoarthritis.Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Damage to the knees, or osteoarthritis, is commonly seen in people who are obese. For many years, it was assumed that osteoarthritis is due to additional stress on the knee joints, due to increased weight. However, studies have shown that the commonly seen side effect of obesity is actually due to the increase in systemic and local inflammation caused by macrophages and other inflammatory cells that are targeting the adipose tissue but the joints tissue are caught in the cross fire and undergo degeneration. 

Studies published over the last couple of years have now been able to associate the inflammation seen in obesity to the gut microbiome. While this might sound a bit outlandish, researchers studying the gut microbiomes have found that nature of microbiome of the gut is dependent primarily on the dietary intake. Nature of food intake can distort the natural flora of the gut, which can then effect the inflammatory status in the body, leading to events like osteoarthritis in obesity, but have also been associated with asthma, Type 2 diabetes, Parkison's disease etc.

In another study published in Endocrine Disorders, researchers found that addition of a prebiotic called oligo fructose, helps in increase of Bifidobacteria, which helps in reduction of inflammation in the body. Researchers at the Zuscik lab at the University of Rochester hypothesized that supplementing oligofructose in diet should therefore reduce inflammation and progression of osteoarthritis. 

To test their hypothesis, the team induced obesity in a mouse model by feeding it high fat diet, which predictably led to increased body fat percentage and insulin resistance. After 12 weeks of high fat diet, prebiotic fiber oligofructose was supplemented in the diet, which caused a reduction in glucose tolerance but not body mass. Fecal samples were collected prior and after introduction of oligofructose supplements for obese mice and tested for the microbiomes. 

It was observed that gut microbiomes of obese and lean mice were significantly different. Lean mice had abundant levels of   Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes and Bifidobacterium pseudolongum. On the other hand, obese mice had more Firmicutes, decreased Bacteriodetes and almost absent Actinobacteria. Two weeks after the introduction of the prebiotic, obese mice once again, showed higher levels of Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes and Bifidobacterium pseudolongum.

Cytokine levels were also measured in obese and lean mice prior and after the introduction of oligofructose.  Once again, pro inflammatory cytokines that were seen higher in obese mice, fell after the introduction of oligofructose, thus confirming reduction in inflammation after the introduction of oligofructose. Similarly, osteoarthritis was monitored in lean and obese mice, which was also observed to have reduced after the introduction the the perbiotic, oligofructose. The most important factor to note, however, is that introduction of the prebiotic, did not result in reduction of body mass for the obese mice, yet inflammation and associated degeneration of joints were found to be decreased in the study. 

Should I buy Oligofructose then? 

Well, like with all things in science, this is just a discovery in a mouse model and further validations need to be done in  a human study, before any tall claims can be made about a prebiotic. Although, mouse and human gut microbiomes share similarities, it is not necessary that oligofructose, will have the same effect in the human body as it did in the mouse model. One needs to be wait for a detailed human study before proceeding to add/ remove supplements to existing diet. 

In the meantime, you could always include conventionally accepted methods of eating a balanced diet and including exercise in your routine to stay healthy. 


Popular posts from this blog

Do free energy magnetic motors really work?

The internet is rife with websites that promote generators that are capable of providing electricity without using any fuel. Built largely with magnets, these 'free energy generators' promise to cut your electricity bills and provide a much greener alternative to the electricity that is largely generated out of fossil fuels. Elaborate videos that give you estimates of how much money you can save without revealing any details of how to go about it, manage to keep the audience hooked on for a while, but $40 price tag, the loads of freebies and the instant $10 discount for not leaving the page, make the product and its seller highly suspicious. So, we decided to find out if these free energy magnetic motors really work?

The Principle

The magnetic motor works on the simple principle that we all already know, 'Like poles repel each other while opposite poles attract each other'. By arranging the magnets in a fashion where only like poles face each other, one can simply set t…

Why Sci-Hub’s story is so crucial to science?

On the 28th of October 2015, Judge Robert Sweet in his ruling at the New York district court declared that the website be blocked with immediate effect and managed to stop hundreds and thousands of researchers and science enthusiasts from accessing the holy grail of today’s science, the research paper.
What should be a simple means to communicate to the world one’s research findings, has become a currency of some sort. A ticket to a researcher’s professional success, a magnet for an investigator to attract funding for his lab and the elusive piece of the puzzle that the publishing group can hold you ransom for, until you cough up some good cash ($30 or above for a single article and thousands of dollars for a bundled annual subscription)
What Judge Sweet termed as a “disservice (to) public interest”, is actually a small website that allows you access to scientific research, old and new, and for free. Sci- Hub. Org, started in 2011, as a trusted place to access research …

Generating electricity from flapping tree leaves

As kids, you might have spent many afternoons, under a huge tree, enjoying its shade. In a tropical country like India, trees are a welcome sight in the month of May, when the sun is blazing in the sky and the shade offered by them is a hundred thousand times better than artificial cooling of the air conditioning units. But never in our dream would we have thought that the rustling of the tiny leaves of the trees could one day make electricity for us.Because that requires a Hendersonian moment! (just in a bit)

This brilliant idea has come from the lab of a biophysicist at Iowa State University, Dr. Michael McCloskey, whose work at the University largely involves the study of membrane transport in algae and adult born neurons but also has a background in plant sciences. It was his colleague in the department of genetics, Dr. Eric Henderson who first came up with this plan of harvesting energy from leaves as he wondered how much kinetic energy was being generated when winds blow across l…

5 things driverless cars will do to change our future?

The race for building the world’s first commercially available driverless car is on. Google seems to be leading the pack and in its own charismatic style has been very open about it. Elon Musk’s Tesla is considered the second best with their cars having almost automated the driving process. Tech favourites, Apple also seem to be in the race but everything is under wraps, as of now, and there is not even a hint of what Apple is planning to make, the car, the software or simply make the car accessible with your Apple ID.
Once part of science fiction, driverless cars will soon be a part of our lives and with major automobile manufacturers such as General Motors, Toyota, Ford investing in the technology, prototypes of driverless cars will soon be seen on the roads. Before we get there, a quick review.
The Driverless car
The concept of automated driving has been around for close to a century but progress was slow due to unavailability of technology. For a car to be autonomous, it needs to kno…

Solar cells that work in rain

In case you have read my last month’s guest post about harvesting solar energy in rust, you would be delighted to know that there has been yet another breakthrough in our attempt to harness solar energy.  For many years, solar energy has been targeted for being unavailable at night and during rains. The problem of utilizing solar energy at night can be resolved with the help of metal oxide cells as elaborated in my above post (do read it, if you have not done so already). And now researchers at the Ocean University in China have addressed the second problem and developed solar cells that can actually use rain drops to generate electricity.
Published in the German journal Angewandte Chemie, the paper titled, A Solar Cell Triggered by Sun and Rain, opens a new realm of possibilities when harnessing solar energy. Coating the solar cell with a thin film of graphene allows the cell to function even when it is raining. Graphene is nothing but reduced form of graphite that consists of a hone…