Press Release
21.07.2014

Weight gain influences intestinal bacteria and metabolite patterns

An increase in body weight is accompanied by changes in both the composition of gut microbiota and the pattern of thousands of metabolites. In addition, diabetes appears to influence certain metabolic pathways, such as sulfur metabolism. Scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München used metabolomic analyses to examine these effects and consequently have again pointed out the complexity of intestinal metabolism. The results have been published in 'The ISME Journal' and 'The Journal of Proteome Research'.

Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Alesia Walker; Source: HMGU

Weight gain also has an impact on metabolism and on the bacterial community composition in the gastrointestinal tract. A team of scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna discovered that excess weight in mice influences the composition of the gut microbiota. The research projects were funded by the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD). The team headed by Alesia Walker and Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin were especially interested in the discovery of altered metabolic products (metabolites) in association with weight gain. They compared the metabolic profiles and the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota in healthy mice to those in overweight mice. Only less than ten percent of thousands of detected metabolites are known and given in metabolite databases.

"Excess weight directly influences metabolic performance"
"Our results show the complexity of metabolic regulation and control, and also that excess weight directly influences gut metabolism," reports study leader Schmitt-Kopplin. "Our measurements using ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry are providing us insights into metabolic changes that have not yet been described. These results indicate which molecular mechanisms could underlie excess weight and could contribute to secondary outcomes."

Diabetes associated with altered sulfur compounds
Particularly, the so-called gut microbiome, the composition of microorganisms in the intestines, has long been associated with the development of various diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, for example. In a further study, the group headed by Schmitt-Kopplin was able to show that the metabolism in a diabetic animal model is especially characterized by new types of sulfur-containing metabolites. "In both studies we were able to reveal various metabolic patterns and even identify metabolites, which were unknown before. Now, we want to examine their functions further, with a special focus on sulfur metabolism," explains first author Walker. "The comparison with the gut microbiota furthermore allows us to conclude about the body's metabolic characteristics and microbial-metabolic interactions."

Read more about metabolic research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München here:

Lifestyle Influences Metabolism via DNA Methylation

Scientists discover epigenetic mechanism that could affect risk of obesity-related disease

Atlas shows how genes affect our metabolism

Type 1 diabetes: Gut microbiota networks may influence autoimmune processes


Further Information

Original publications:

Walker, A. et al. (2014): Distinct signatures of host–microbial meta-metabolome and gut microbiome in twoQ1 C57BL/6 strains under high-fat diet, The ISME Journal (International Society for Microbial Ecology), doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.79

Link  to publication

Walker, A. et al. (2014): The importance of sulfur-containing metabolites in discriminating fecal extracts between normal and type 2 diabetic mice, Journal of Proteome Research, doi: 10.1021/pr500046b

Link to publication


The studies were funded by the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD).

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,200 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. Helmholtz Zentrum München is Partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD).

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and interlinks basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. Members are the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden and the University of Tübingen, as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The objective of the DZD is to find answers to open questions in diabetes research by means of a novel, integrative research approach and to make a significant contribution to improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. 

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Scientific contact
Prof. Dr. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Analytical BioGeoChemistry Department, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany - Phone: 089-3187-3246 -

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