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What's on Your Breath - And What Could It Mean For Your Weight?

>> Friday, March 29, 2013

It is increasingly recognized that the bacteria that grow in our guts (and yes, they are in there - around a kilogram of them in each of us!) have an impact on our overall metabolism and risk of obesity.  A new study shows that the type of gases in your breath (reflecting the type of bacteria you have in your gut) are associated with body weight.

The study looked at nearly 800 individuals, and classified them according to whether they had high levels of methane, hydrogen, both, or neither on breath testing.  They found that those who had higher methane and hydrogen on their breath had higher body mass index, and higher body fat percent, than the other groups.

The authors hypothesize that the high methane, high hydrogen breath is due to colonization with a bacteria called M smithii, a bacteria that may make food calories more available for absorption from our intestines.

Another lesson that it is so much more than calories in/calories out that factors in to our body weight.

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2013 

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Anonymous April 1, 2013 at 9:30 AM  

I have noticed that bad breath can also be caused by tonsilloliths, which are actually lumps of food and bacteria collected in the tonsils. Could be there is some methane produced by these? When a person has cancer there can also be a foul odour detected on their breath, which disappears when the cancer is removed. Were these situations take into consideration in the study?

Dr. Sue Pedersen April 1, 2013 at 7:27 PM  

Thanks for your questions! Neither of these were looked at in the study. Interestingly, in response to your excellent question, I came across a study suggesting that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath were elevated in one small study of breast cancer patients, compared to healthy women without breast cancer. Perhaps we should be focusing more research on the interesting question of how breath can help us across multiple aspects of medicine.



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