When I was growing up, I used to heap loads of sugar into my bowl of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal. I couldn’t wait to scrape up the little mound of milk-soaked sugar left over at the bottom.
My sweet tooth abated somewhat in adulthood, but I still get a hankering for that bowl of vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s syrup I don’t need at 10 o’clock at night. Now, however, there may be a solution to that nagging sweet tooth that entices us to eat nutrition-bereft, high-calorie snacks.
Preliminary findings from researchers at Augusta University show that slightly changing the makeup of the billions of bacteria in the gut could help suppress a person’s sweet tooth. The findings could play an important role in the ongoing battle against obesity.
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As part of their research, the scientists introduced a small dose of E. coli (not one of the few strains that makes us sick) into the guts of mice. The result: levels of leptin — a hormone that tells us when we’re full — went up. And within seven days, the taste for sweets and number of sweet receptors on the tongue went way down, said Dr. Lynnette McCluskey, a neuroscientist at Augusta University.
Advancements in technology have allowed scientists to begin studying the billions of bacteria in our gut — or microbiome — that allow us to digest food. How is it different in an obese person, versus someone who is lean? Can a person’s gut bacteria affect how long she lives?
Scientists are just beginning to understand how our gut bacteria affects us.
“They play a big role in obesity, inflammatory bowel disease,” McCluskey said. “And now people are even looking at how they affect the brain for psychiatric disorders like depression.”