A Lack of Bacteria Can Make You Overweight, Scientists Find

Does fat run in your family?

Blame your gut bacteria.

Researchers at Cornell University have identified a family of microbes called Christensenellaceae that appear to help people stay lean—and having an abundance of them, or not, is strongly genetic.

Someday, it may be possible to have the Christensenellaceae clan adopt you, however. Mice that received transplants of the bacteria gained less weight than untreated mice eating the same diet. The study was published in the journal Cell this month.

There has been an explosion of research into how bacteria affect human health, and body weight is one of the most intriguing areas. There is growing speculation that rising rates of obesity may be due in part to increased use of antibiotics, which may be wiping out bacteria that help humans convert food into energy efficiently.