Fat chance on this idea; GMO probiotics!

Pardon the pun (or cliche) since this post is about fat. From the news I selected an article about the possible connection of gut bacteria and obesity. The popular press version (IOW, dumbed down from real study) actually reports multiple findings and this one really caught my eye:

Another study, reported in July, detailed the creation of a probiotic that researchers say could prevent obesity.

Senior study author Sean Davies, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and colleagues genetically modified a strain of bacteria that colonizes the human gut – Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 – to produce a compound called N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE), which can reduce food intake.

Are you kidding me! If there are two things that don’t mix, oil and water, it’s probiotic nuts and GMOs – a GMO bacteria you ingest and grow in your gut! The anti-GMO idiots freak out over foods you eat with NO LIVING GMOs and you think they won’t really freak when you try to feed them living things (and E. coli to boot which few nutrition scolds know has multiple strains and only a few, in bad hamburger, make you sick, but this is way too subtle a distinction for the typical non-science-degreed nutritionists who can’t make such fine fact-based distinctions).

I got a really good laugh out of this – good luck trying to feed screwed up health nuts living GMOs.


Now, as to the main study discussed in this paper my initial response is skepticism. But I let my gut instinct rule my judgment I’d be as stupid a Jenny McCarthy. So, given what little I can glean from the popular press report, is this a potentially valid study? Let’s look at a few criteria:

  1. are the authors quacks or respectable – respectable as far as I can tell
  2. do they come from major institutions with no vested interests – yes, as far as I can tell (don’t know if Dannon or Yoplait paid for this study, which influences outcomes even in reputable institutions)
  3. did they publish in a real and significant journal – yep, Cell is top of the pack
  4. did they have adequate sample size for statistical significance – a little small, but minimally adequate
  5. does their protocol make sense (i.e. simple things like control groups) – yes, as far as it is reported
  6. are their results transparent and available for confirmation or disputation – unclear, but I’d assume so
  7. any red flags of bias – none, visible but frankly it is possible in this case

So there is nothing to reject this study and its conclusions, BUT, as everything else in science, it still should be viewed as provisional.

  • Once others have replicated (or enlarged on) this study and confirmed or disputed the results,
  • once knowledgeable readers have skeptically (but an honest and informed skepticism, not just anti-POV like anti-vax or anti-GMO or (LOL at this designation), climate “skeptics” (i.e. paid Koch shills)),
  • and once more detailed mechanisms are elucidated (for instance, if Christensenellaceae minuta seems to be a casual factor, what genomic and molecular specifics would indicate the causation pathway (possibly this bacteria just makes you sick and reduces the efficiency of intestines, not an ideal way to get weight reduction)),

then this result begins to take on the sheen of being real facts and meaningful.

But until then, yogurt peddlers, don’t start claiming even more miraculous claims for your already popularized “superfood”.

About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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