• Written by Kent Willis, Assistant Professor of Neonatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

The Research Brief[1] is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Mice with certain communities of fungi living in their gut gained more weight when eating processed food than mice whose gut microbiomes hosted different communities of fungi, according to our study[2] published March 5 in the journal Communications Biology.

Microbiomes are communities of microorganisms. In this study, we explored whether the fungal members of the gut microbiome – called the mycobiome – changed their host’s metabolic reaction to processed food. To do this, we obtained genetically identical mice from four different companies – each with different fungal microbiomes – and then fed the mice either standard mouse food or processed food resembling the typical American diet. After six weeks, we measured their body fat as well as genes and hormones involved in metabolism.

We specifically looked at the relationship between the fungal microbiome and processed foods – foods that contain refined sugars, monounsaturated fats and white flour, for example – because these foods are linked to unhealthy weight gain in humans[3]. Eating processed food made most mice fatter, but how much weight and how their metabolism changed varied between mice with different microbiomes. After measuring the microbiomes of each mouse, we used machine learning to figure out which fungi had the strongest influence on metabolism.

We found that mice whose gut microbiomes contained more of the fungi Thermomyces – which manufacturers use to break down fat in commercial processes – and less Saccharomyces – yeasts used in baking and brewing – gained about 15% more weight[4] than the mice with different microbiomes. We found similar but smaller differences in mice on a normal diet.

A hamburger and onion rings on a plate. The microbiome plays an important role in how bodies react to processed foods. Jeffrey W via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY[5][6]

Why it matters

The gut microbiome can influence metabolism[7].

Most people assume the microbiome is entirely bacteria. However, fungi – though usually less common[8] than bacteria – are often critical members[9] of these microbial communities. Microbiomes vary among individuals, so the species of fungi living in your gut might be different from your neighbor’s. This was also true for mice in our study.

Researchers only recently discovered the fungal microbiome[10] and have limited knowledge of how it affects human health[11]. Our study is one of the first to identify how gut fungi can influence metabolism.

If gut fungi influence metabolism in people similarly to the way they do in mice, researchers might be able to develop diets tailored for specific microbiomes. It might also be possible to adjust a person’s fungal microbiome to control weight in specific situations – such as after weight-loss surgery.

A fat black mouse and a skinny black mouse standing next to each other. Fungal microbiomes play a role in influencing the metabolism of mice. How this translates to humans remains to be seen. Georgejason/iStock via Getty Images Plus[12]

What still isn’t known

Scientists are still learning which species of fungi make their home in the gut versus fungi that might just be passing through[13]. While many of the interactions between humans and their gut fungi are likely beneficial, this may not always be the case. For example, fungi may play a role in irritable bowel syndrome[14] and increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer[15].

Not only could the presence or absence of certain fungi have direct effects on health, fungal interaction with bacteria is also likely very important. Our work has made some key first steps in understanding the complex relationship between bacterial and fungal communities[16] when they cooperate to digest processed food.

What’s next

We are planning to perform studies in humans and mice looking at how the fungal microbiome influences metabolism on high-fat diets and after weight loss surgery. And to learn more about how different fungi affect metabolism, we’d like to create mice with artificial microbiomes that we either assemble ourselves or transplant from a human donor.


  1. ^ Research Brief (
  2. ^ our study (
  3. ^ unhealthy weight gain in humans (
  4. ^ more weight (
  5. ^ Jeffrey W via Wikimedia Commons (
  6. ^ CC BY (
  7. ^ influence metabolism (
  8. ^ less common (
  9. ^ critical members (
  10. ^ fungal microbiome (
  11. ^ human health (
  12. ^ Georgejason/iStock via Getty Images Plus (
  13. ^ passing through (
  14. ^ irritable bowel syndrome (
  15. ^ pancreatic cancer (
  16. ^ bacterial and fungal communities (

Authors: Kent Willis, Assistant Professor of Neonatology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Read more

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Ny’a: My Musical Journey

It’s been such an amazing musical journey. Starting my career in the late 1990’s and selling over 500,000 copies of my debut album “Embrace” worldwide was the beginning of it all.  It was an incredible start of my career. It was a whirlwind for m...

Ny’a - avatar Ny’a

Pro Tips for Gambling Online

While online gambling sounds like an entertaining thing to spend your afternoons playing, it is also serious business for professional players. Those that take gambling seriously know all the tips and tricks that make a good game. Not only do the...

News Co - avatar News Co

The New Art: Balancing Human and Synth in Music Creation

It’s a great time to be alive for indie music makers! There are many of us, maybe including you, who are creating good music out there, armed with nothing but our own ingenuity and the few dollars in our shallow pockets. But what’s the best way to ...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a releases “Waiting”

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a has topped the World Indie and Euro Indie Charts countless times, hit the R&B Soul Chart and Club Music Chart Top 20 and became the first artist since Janet Jack...

News Co - avatar News Co

An Aussie Band Breaks Into The US Music Market

AN AUSTRALIAN BAND’S STEPS TAKEN TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE US MARKET By skinsNbones The steps skinsNbones have taken as a band trying to break into the music market haven’t been taken in the traditional Australian way. We didn’t have the opportun...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media


After a difficult year fraught with fear, anxiety and personal and sociopolitical struggles, nothing has the power to soothe our collective souls – or coincides as perfectly with our renewed sense of hope – than a heartfelt, blissfully beautiful love...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Metropolitan Business News

Essential Tips for Developing Corporate Websites

The corporate industry, just like the others, is experiencing a massive technological revolution. Organizations have changed their marketing criteria by embracing the internet. Therefore, do not be ...

News Co - avatar News Co

How to Make a Personal Injury Claim for Minors

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is always safe. But as much as you want to keep him under your watch, it is impossible to be there for him all the time. When he is out there attendin...

News Co - avatar News Co

Dress for Success - Style Essentials for Every Businessmen

Did you ever glance at a person in passing and instantly think, “Wow, they must be successful”? It seems like the rich and successful people always stand out from the crowd without even trying, ...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Why use Google Adwords?

Google ads, previously known as Google AdWords is one of the best and most effective ways to advertise your business online. According to data released by Google, over 5.5 billion searches are made ...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Perfecting Web Design For A Health-Based Website

These days, when it comes to understanding what we put into our bodies, we are more focused than ever. It seems that everywhere we look, there is another health benefit, product, or trend on the...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

3 Realistic Reasons Why Physical Offices Are (Almost) Dead

Nowadays, more and more businesses are trying to find alternatives to traditional offices. For many years, brick and mortar offices have been at the heart of a company’s life. But work environme...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Writers Wanted

News Co Media

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion