A terrific review (ED Rosen. NEJM 2016; 374: 885-7) explains how cool temperature can alter the microbiome and the implications of this finding.
Background: mammals have at least two types of adipose tissue: “the familiar (and all too abundant) white fat that stores calories, and brown adipose tissue that dissipates energy…studies of mice have identified several drivers of the appearance of beige fat cells in white fat pads, a process known as ‘browning.'”
Reviewed study: Chevalier et al. Cell 2015; 163: 1360-74.
“This new work shows that cold exposure, like dietary change, provokes alterations in the gut microbiota of mice. Moreover, when cold-adapted flora are transferred to a germ-free animal, the recipient mouse loses fat mass and has improved insulin sensitivity…[they] are better able to defend their body temperature on being placed in the cold.”
- “This new work shows that prolonged cold exposure induces a massive increase in the absorptive surface of the gut…cold causes a profound increase in the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes”
- “A companion article from the same group suggests that antibiotic therapy, which depletes gut microbiota, also induces browning and weight loss.”
My take: In totality, these studies demonstrate how multiple organs (in this case: adipose tissue and the gut) work together to face an environmental challenge. Furthermore, changes in the gut microbiome may be important for therapeutic advantage in many disease states including obesity, type 2 diabetes, short bowel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and many others. Now, that is cool.
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