How Gut Function Alteration Affects Obese People

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have discovered that digestion in obese people is impaired whether they are in a fasting or fed state.

The results of the findings presented at the 75th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in October 2010, revealed that gastric function in an obese person is different from that of a lean individual.

All food is broken down into nutrients and absorbed in the gastrointestinal system. This organ system is crucial in processing and absorbing life sustaining nutrients.

How Gastric Function is Different in Obese People as per Research?

  • Generally, upon eating, the body of lean people opposes any effect which slows digestion, raises heart rate or contracts blood vessels. But in obese people, such developments are completely absent. The study involved gastric myoelectrical activity (GMA) measurements of 12 lean and an equal number of obese people using the technique electrogastrography.
  • Gastric function also control appetite and the feeling of fullness.
  • The stomach of obese people is highly tolerant to meals with fat and more responsive to meals with protein causing protein to be quickly emptied out of the stomach which doesn’t help control appetite.
  • The stomach of the lean people group got tired of the fatty meals soon whereas it was not so in obese people.
  • The vagus nerve which causes contraction of the stomach muscles and intestines are found to be less active in obese participants of the study.
  • Obese subjects have a stomach that is more tolerable to high volumes (higher gastric capacity).
  • Obese subjects have accelerated gastric emptying suggesting a prolonged presence of food in the stomach.  This finding relates to lack of appetite control leading to overeating.

Significance of the Research on Gut Function Alteration in Obese People:

It means that the body reacts in an impaired manner after they eat food. As a result, the brain is not informed about the intake of the food. This miscommunication gives way to over-eating in obese people.


Jinhong Xing and Jiande D.Z. Chen, Alterations of Gastrointestinal Motility in Obesity, Obesity Research (2004) 12, 1723–1732; doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.213

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