MEXICO CITY, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Mexican scientists have found evidence that megamonas, bacteroidetes and firmicutes and bacteria that live in the digestive tract can lead to obesity in children.
In the lead up to Children's Day in Mexico, celebrated annually on April 30 since 1925, Jaime Garcia Mena, a scientist at Mexico's Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav), told Xinhua on Saturday about the link childhood obesity and various types of digestive bacteria.
In addition to genetic factors, such as chromosomes that explain obesity, "we found that there is another factor ... the role of bacteria lodged in the digestive tract of children that tend towards obesity," Garcia said.
"Through a study, we were able to verify that there is an imbalance of bacteria, that is to say that these microbes are abundant in the digestive tract of a child suffering from obesity, compared to minors that are at their ideal weight," said Garcia.
The findings are part of a study, called the "Genetics of obesity in infancy and adolescence," that was undertaken to attend to Mexico's growing problem of obese youngsters.
According to the national statistics institute Inegi, three out of 10 children in Mexico suffer from obesity, with 18 percent of boys affected by the disorder and 12 percent of girls.
Garcia, who works in the Cinvestav's department of genetics and molecular biology, said gut bacteria are part of the genetic material parents pass on to their children.
However, most of the microbes in our digestive system come from the food we eat, the water we drink and the environment we live.
"Bacteria are transported in the air, the water, and the food commonly eaten in Mexico, and when they enter the human body, they multiply," he said.
"In children we have studied, aged 5 to 12, there is a type of bacteria called megamonas, which are abundant in children that are overweight or obese," said Garcia.
The study, being carried out in conjunction with government-run agencies, such as the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and the National Public Health Institute, observed 563 children, 55 percent of whom had overweight or obesity problems, and 43 percent were considered of normal eight and size.
Nutrition plays an important part in regulating gut bacteria and determining weight, Garcia said, with children who consume more carbohydrates, meats, simple sugars and starches developing a digestive environment that favors obesity.
"Today, children's food is comprised of fast food or junk food, and fruits and vegetables are being forgotten about. With bad nutrition and a lack of exercise, we are seeing an increase in obesity," he said.
The best way to prevent obesity in the young, he believed, is to educate parents about the benefits of a proper diet, which can help reduce the proliferation of bacteria linked to obesity.
While the genetic material we inherit cannot be modified, the study shows there are things we can do to prevent weight gain in children, the researcher said.
"It is urgent to change our diet so Mexican children eat properly and generate the beneficial bacteria of healthy children, not children with obesity," he said.