Only recently have scientists begun to study how our gut microbes affect our weight, but there seems to be a clear link between the two. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Iowa wants to know if we might one day be able to manipulate those microbes to help us burn more calories while we sleep.
The new study expands upon previous research linking the drug risperidone—commonly used to treat a range of psychiatric disorders—to changes in the gut microbiome that contribute to weight gain. Though they suspected it had something to do with the bacteria residing in the digestive tract, researchers wanted to know exactly how it all worked.
Using mice, Dr. John Kirby and his team were able to determine that the gut bacteria changes triggered by risperidone cause weight gain by slowing down the rate at which the body burns calories while at rest or asleep (otherwise known as our resting metabolic rate) by roughly 16 percent.
“Our research leads to the conclusion that it is probably bacteria [in the gut] that are responsible for the calories you burn while you are asleep,” said Kirby, who believes the results spotlight the role of gut microbes in metabolism and may one day lead to new methods for treating weight gain and obesity.