Lifestyle & Belief

Breath test might predict obesity risk


Seventeen year-old Marissa Hamilton stands on a scale during her weekly weigh-in at the Wellspring Academy in Reedley, California, a special school that helps teens and college level students lose weight along with academic courses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children in the US ages 6-19 years are overweight or obese, three times as many since 1980.


Justin Sullivan

A new study has found that a simple breath test could tell you if you are obese or if you have the risk of being obese in the future.

According to its findings, a standard breath test can be used to assess bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, which can also tell doctors if you have a high percentage of body fat.

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The trillions of good and bad bacteria that line your stomach can fall out of balance, and when the bad bacteria outweigh the good, you can experience symptoms such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. The study, published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, says that these conditions can also set a person up for obesity.

Dr. Ruchi Mathur, director of diabetes in the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and her colleagues analyzed the breath of 792 men and women of varying ages. They focused on detecting methane, because a family of organisms called archaea, which are older than bacteria and colonize in the gut, are linked with weight gain and release small amounts of methane gas.

People releasing higher levels of methane in their breath also tend to have a body mass index (BMI) nearly seven points higher than those with lower levels.

"This is the first large-scale human study to show an association between gas production and body weight," said Mathur, adding that "this could prove to be another important factor in understanding one of the many causes of obesity."