Posted on Apr 05, 2017, 10 a.m.
New research finds that a noninvasive electromagnetic brain stimulation technique assists obese people in losing weight, by altering their gut bacteria.
Scientists have determined that stimulation of the human brain through noninvasive electromagnetic technique helps obese individuals lose weight. This form of stimulation alters the composition of the intestinal bacteria in obese patients. Some refer to this bacteria as “gut microbiota”. The research team used a technique known as deep transcranial magnetic stimulation to obtain the results. The study was financed by the Italian Ministry of Health. The findings were presented in Orlando, Florida at the Endocrine Society's 99th annual get-together, known as “ENDO 2017”.
The Fight Against Obesity
Scientists, doctors, and patients are clamoring for new therapies that treat obesity in a safe and effective manner. Though plenty of therapeutic and preventive interventions exist, none have successfully stopped obesity from becoming increasingly common. It is believed that one of the primary causes of obesity is impaired composition of gut microbiota. There is an imbalance of the mixture of harmful and helpful microorganisms that are present in the digestive track. It is known that impaired gut microbiota affects the brain's signals for hunger as well as satiety.
This study adds to previous findings that dTMS decreases food cravings and induces weight loss in obese patients. Deep brain stimulation requires the implantation or operation of electrodes. The same is not true of dTMS. Rather, an electromagnetic coil is used along the scalp to transmit magnetic pulses that stimulate the depths of the brain. This form of treatment is approved in the United States to treat debilitating depression. It is currently being studied in other countries to determine if it can treat neuropsychiatric disorders including addiction.
The research team analyzed whether dTMS could boost gut microbiota composition in obese patients. The researchers were also intent on pinpointing the underlying mechanisms that improved gut microbiota composition in such individuals. Three obese men and 11 obese women between the ages of 22 and 65 were recruited for the study. For the purpose of the study, obesity was defined by a body mass index of 30-45 kg/m2.
The study subjects were randomly assigned to two distinct groups for five weeks in which 15 treatment sessions occurred three times per week. Treatments were either dTMS to the prefrontal cortex/insula or a meaningless stimulation used as a control. Study participants provided stool samples before and after treatment for microbiota analysis purposes. The researchers also measured the levels of blood glucose (sugar), pituitary gland hormones, insulin, and neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine. Pituitary hormones are crucial to the study and treatment of obesity as they play an important role in controlling appetite. Research has found that norepinephrine and select neurotransmitters impact microbiota composition.
Study participants who received dTMS lost over 3 percent of their weight. Furthermore, they lost 4 percent of body fat. These losses greatly exceed the losses of those who received the control stimulation. Fecal analysis showed that study participants treated with dTMS had considerably higher quantities of numerous helpful bacterial species containing anti-inflammatory properties. These bacterial species are commonly found in healthy individuals.
Those in the control group did not have any sort of clinically relevant alterations to their microbiota composition. Alterations in the number of bacterial species correlated to better hormonal and metabolic parameters like insulin, glucose, norepinephrine, and numerous pituitary hormones. The changes are an indication that dTMS provides numerous benefits for weight loss as well as changes to microbiota composition. The research makes it clear that dTMS has an inherently innovative ability to promote anti-obesity effects by way of gut-brain axis alteration.
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The Endocrine Society. "Magnetic brain stimulation causes weight loss by making gut bacteria healthier."