CMIT Collaborating with Boston Children’s Researchers to Study Changes in the Microbiome with Dietary Composition and Weight Loss

CMIT is excited to announce their collaboration with researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) on a new obesity and metabolism study. Lead investigators David Ludwig, MD, PhD and Cara Ebbeling, PhD want to better understand the dietary factors that contribute to the challenge of weight maintenance after a period of dieting and weight loss. It is well established, in the general public and scientific community alike, that maintaining weight loss over the long term is both challenging and often unsuccessful. The BCH researchers are investigating how metabolic changes that occur due to differences in dietary composition may be contributing to this physiologic challenge. CMIT has joined their effort and will simultaneously study the contribution from the microbiome.

In their new, recently published clinical study (Ebbeling et al. BMJ 2018), 164 adults were placed on the same, weight-loss oriented diet. After a specified amount of weight loss (10-14%), the study subjects were randomized to 1 of 3 weight-maintenance diets (comprised of high carbohydrate and low fat, moderate carbohydrate and moderate fat, or low carbohydrate and high fat) for 20 weeks. Their results suggested that total energy expenditure dropped the least in response to low carbohydrate diets, which in theory may prevent weight regain. Investigators also measured physical activity, hormonal changes (such as insulin secretion and resistance) and physiologic changes (such as skeletal muscle efficiency) along with changes in weight and hunger levels. Bridget Hron, MD, as the director of this ancillary study, and researchers from CMIT collected stool samples from willing participants, at each stage of the study, and will be analyzing changes in both microbial populations as well as short-chain fatty acid content in an effort to understand the impact of diet and weight changes on gastrointestinal health.

This new research has the potential to provide powerful, scientific insights into one of the biggest challenges facing obesity and metabolic disease in our country. Rather than falsely contributing weight gain to patient behavior, investigators here hope to provide a more accurate and detailed metabolic picture that will hopefully provide a potential for future therapeutic interventions.