(HealthDay News) – The concentration of Bacteroides fragilis (B. fragilis) group bacteria and protein intake are associated with obesity in childhood.

To investigate whether the composition of the gut microbiota correlates with diet, physical activity, and obesity in children, Liene Bervoets, from the University of Hasselt in Diepenbeek, Belgium, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study involving 26 obese and 27 non-obese children, aged 6–16 years. The composition of the gut microbiota was analyzed using fecal samples. Dietary and physical activity surveys were completed by all children.

The researchers found that there was a negative correlation between body mass index standard deviation score (BMI SDS) and the concentration of B. fragilis group. BMI SDS was positively correlated with B. fragilis colonization and negatively associated with B. vulgatus colonization. There was also a positive association between BMI SDS and the Firmicutes/Bacteroides ratio. Increased protein intake correlated with higher colonization of B. fragilis group and lower presence of B. fragilis in the gut. There was no significant association with physical activity.

“Our results suggest that low concentrations of B. fragilis group together with a low protein intake during childhood could lead to the development of obesity,” Bervoets said in a statement. “Therapeutic manipulation of our gut microbiota, through changing dietary habits or administering prebiotics or probiotics at an early life stage, may be a useful strategy in the prevention of obesity.”

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