If the medications, shakes and diet plans don’t yield the weight loss results you want, the next step might be transplanting the stool of a thin person into your body.
Sound far-fetched? Researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston recently proposed, based on their investigation into the workings of the gut, that fecal transplants might prove to be an effective weight-loss tool.
The news was not surprising for Dr. Pavlos Papasavas, director of research in the Department of Surgery and co-director of bariatric surgery at Hartford Hospital. He noted that the gut is a rapidly unraveling medical mystery tied to many bodily functions, diseases and conditions.
“There was a recent case report in which a woman who was average size became obese after a fecal transplant. They looked into it and the donor was obese,” he said.
The explanation, he added, lies in the body’s microbiome, which is unique to each person. Does introducing stool, the product of an individual’s gut, in fact, alter their microbiome, he asked.
“If you can change the microbiome, how can that affect one’s weight?” he said. “What kind of bacteria do lean people have in their gut?”
The Brigham & Women’s study, he said, was exploratory and begins the conversation about using fecal transplants to help with weight loss. It did not show that the transplant yielded weight loss and no change in peptides similar to the chemical changes that occur after bariatric surgery.
“The question is how long would it last? Would it revert back to the person’s original biome?” Dr. Papasavas said.
But what was interesting, he said, was watching the “cascade of events” that followed disruption of the balance in a person’s gut, where trillions of bacteria live. He noted that the metabolic and bariatric surgery team at Hartford Hospital is collaborating with Dr. George Weinstock at The Jackson Laboratories to investigate what changes happen to the gut biome after bariatric surgery.
With obesity, Dr. Papasavas said there needs to be more research done to elucidate the possible contribution of gut biome to the weight loss after diet and bariatric surgery.
“It’s intriguing. People have long tried to find nonoperative treatments for obesity,” he said, adding that, “there’s no magic pill for obesity and every person’s obesity is different.”
For more information about weight loss surgery at Hartford HealthCare, click here.