The gist of the piece is that viruses that inhabit our intestines can make us process food differently and extract calories more efficiently, so eating the same amount of calories can make some people gain more weight than others.
...germ-free mice, reared in sterile isolators in Gordon's lab, had 60 percent less fat than ordinary mice. Although they ate voraciously, usually about 30 percent more food than the others, they stayed lean. Without gut microbes, they were unable to extract calories from some of the types of food they ate, which passed through their bodies without being either used or converted to fat.Wow. If this is true, it changes everything about how we think of obesity. How many times have you heard "It's all about diet and exercise"? Maybe not.
When Gordon's postdoctoral researcher Fredrik Backhed transplanted gut microbes from normal mice into the germ-free mice, the germ-free mice started metabolizing their food better, extracting calories efficiently and laying down fat to store for later use. Within two weeks, they were just as fat as ordinary mice.
"The biochemistry of the body of the obese person is very different from that of a lean person," said [Dr.] Richard Atkinson... "If the obese person gets down to a lean person’s weight, their biochemistry is not the same." Losing weight is hard, keeping it off is harder and, especially for some unfortunate souls, the body seems to work against itself in the struggle.I know I'm not one of the people with the virus. My fat self is purely due to eating too much and exercising too little - I actually lose weight rapidly when I put my mind to it (never).
This doesn't mean the weight problem will be solved, as viruses are notoriously hard to kill once they are in you. I just hope it will spark some compassion for the obese who struggle so hard and find themselves getting heavier and heavier.