Electromagnetic brain stimulation found to reduce obesity by transforming gut bacteria

A new non-invasive treatment can help obese patients lose weight by stimulating certain portions of the brain that alter intestinal bacteria, otherwise known as “gut microbiota.” Researchers from the University of Milan, Italy have found that the technique called deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) can be used to help overweight people lose excess weight. Currently, dTMS is approved in the U.S. as a treatment for major depression, although it is being reviewed as a treatment for other neurological disorders as well, such as addiction.

Unlike other deep brain stimulations, dTMS does not require an operation or the implantation of electrodes. Instead, dTMS utilizes electromagnetic coils which are placed on the scalp. These coils send magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain. Researchers found that this treatment had an unforeseen effect on gut microbiota.

New schools of thought assert that a cause of obesity can be linked to impaired gut microbiota composition. The body needs to maintain the delicate balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in order to thrive. When the balance is disrupted, people are more susceptible to certain health conditions, such as obesity. Impaired gut microbiota alters the brain signals for appetite and satiety, causing a lot of people to eat more than they should. By altering the gut microbiota, dTMS can help medical professionals treat the growing concern of obesity, along with having an improved understanding of what causes people to overeat or gain weight faster.

“We need new safe and effective therapies for obesity,” said lead researcher, Livio Luzi, M.D., as reported on Science Daily. “Despite numerous preventive and therapeutic interventions, none has stopped obesity from reaching epidemic proportions.”

Dr. Luzi says that dTMs can prove to be an effective treatment for obese patients. This conclusion was reached after studying 14 obese patients: three men and 11 women, ages 22 to 65 with a body mass index (BMI) between 30-45 in an observational trial done over the course of five weeks. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups for 15 sessions of either dTMS or a sham stimulation. Researchers collected stool samples from the participants before and after the treatment. Dr. Luzi and his team also measured glucose levels, as well as insulin, pituitary gland hormones, and neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine.

After five weeks of treatment, it was found that participants who received dTMS lost more than three percent of their body weight and more than four percent of their fat. The fecal analysis also proved that dTMS-treated patients had higher levels of “good” bacteria. Those in the control group had no change to their microbiota composition. Dr. Luzi also noted that those treated with dTMS showed improvements in their glucose, insulin, and pituitary hormone levels.

Dr. Luzi concludes, “These changes suggest a beneficial effect of dTMS on both weight loss and change in microbiota composition. Our research shows the innovative ability of dTMS in exerting anti-obesity effects through alteration of the gut-brain axis.”

Think twice about your gut feelings: We DO have a second brain

Several new studies suggest that our gut is our “second brain.” This does not refer to just the metaphorical “trust your gut” and “gut feeling” advice. Data show that our brain and gut are connected by a series of networks that constantly provide feedback to one another. This information superhighway needs to be kept working for us to be healthy. Our gut performs numerous roles, including overseeing the communication between the brain and the central nervous system. Damages to our gut disrupts these connections, resulting in adverse health conditions.

As such, wellness experts constantly remind the public to take better care of their gut by practicing better eating habits and engaging in more physical activities. These also help in weight management.

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