Is food addiction caused by gut bacteria? Aha!

ORNew research shows that compulsive eaters They may have a specific type intestinal bacteria. In an article published in June in the magazine intestinethe authors point out that these microorganisms, known as proteobacteria– were present in high concentrations in the intestines of humans and rodents, which was manifested food addiction.

Meanwhile, the population of the city proteobacteria They were much smaller in individuals who did not exhibit this compulsion. The study was presented at the Forum of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) in 2024.

On the other hand, the team noted that populations of other types of microorganisms, called actinobacteriawere very small as in People like mice food addictsbut which reached very high levels in people who did not suffer from the same disease. addiction.

“There are several factors that contribute to food addiction, a disorder that is characterized by an inability to control intake and is closely associated with obesity, various eating disorders, and the composition of the gut microbiome; that is, with bacteria that normally live in the intestines,” Dr. Elena Martin Garcia, a researcher at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, ​​Spain, explained in a statement. “Until now, we did not know the mechanisms underlying this behavioral disorder,” the scientist added.


Food addiction is an eating disorder that results in an unhealthy relationship with food that manifests as compulsive eating behavior, much like that seen in addicts to substances such as alcohol and drugs.

Those who suffer from this disorder often lose control of what they eat, experience cravings for certain foods, and actually do so despite the health and well-being consequences, including obesity. Despite this, food addiction is such a controversial topic in the scientific community that the disorder was not even included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In their study, the researchers used a psychometric testing tool known as the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS 2.0), which required participants to answer 35 questions, with the rodents’ scores based on observation of behaviors indicative of food addiction (including persistent food seeking, compulsive behavior, and a high degree of motivation to obtain food).

The team also analyzed the gut microbiomes of both humans and rodents and compared the bacterial populations present in the gut with the degree of food addiction previously determined.

The results obtained in both rodents and humans with food addiction revealed an increase in the intestinal concentration of Proteobacteria, as well as a decrease in Actinobacteria populations, along with populations of other bacteria of the genus. Blautia.

food addiction
New research could provide a starting point for treating overeating. (Getty Images Plus)


“We have shown for the first time that there is a direct interaction between the composition of the gut (microbiome) and gene expression in the brain, all of which points to the fact that this important eating disorder, so closely associated with obesity, has a very complex structure. multifactorial origin.

“It is necessary to understand the interaction between this behavioral disorder and gut bacteria to develop treatments for food addiction and related eating disorders,” Martin Garcia wrote.

The team of scientists believed that the identified bacteria could be used to treat compulsive eating because by increasing the population Blautia In rodents, they observed a sharp decrease in the level of food addiction.

“Our results in both mice and humans suggest that certain microbiota may have a protective effect in preventing food addiction. In particular, due to the similarity in concentrations Blautia highlighted the potential benefits of these gut bacteria.

“We are currently studying the protective effects of oral intake of lactulose and rhamnose, since both are indigestible carbohydrates, better known as “prebiotics”, and help increase the amount of Blautia present in the intestines,” the researcher said.

“We conducted tests on mice and observed an increase in the number Blautia stool, as well as very significant improvements in food addiction. In fact, we found significant improvement by giving mice an oral probiotic containing certain species Blautiaknown as Blautia Wexlera“, – concluded Martin Garcia.


The discovery that some gut bacteria can be harmful while others can help prevent food addiction will lead to the development of treatments to help people avoid binge eating and treat other eating disorders.

“Although “food addiction” remains a highly controversial concept, the general consensus is that compulsive consumption of high-calorie, highly palatable foods often leads to eating disorders that lead to obesity. “This study has identified specific microbiota composition associated with certain characteristics of food addiction,” wrote Dr. Harriet Schellekens, who, although not involved in the study, is a professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurosciences and the principal investigator, in another email. Commentary from Food for Health Ireland at University College Cork, Ireland.

“Our research has shown that the number of the genus Blautia decreases as motivation and compulsion to eat increases; this is true in both mice and humans. However, supplementing the diet with prebiotics and probiotics, which contain BlautiaWe were able to reduce the number of mice that we classified as “food dependent,” Schellekens added.

“The study (conducted by Martin Garcia and his team) provides further important evidence that the gut microbiota can influence the feeding behavior of the host. “Their results highlight the need for new mechanistic and translational studies focusing on the gut microbiota, but also in the context of eating disorders and their metabolic consequences,” the professor concluded. N

(Published with Newsweek. Published with Newsweek)

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