Plump Pandas

Ever seen a SKINNY panda? Didn’t think so!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Pandas can’t get enough bamboo! Their favorite part? The shoots, only available four months of the year. Otherwise they munch on bamboo leaves. Surprisingly pandas are CHUBBIEST when they eat the low-fat shoots. What causes this seasonal weight gain?

Enter Fuwen Wei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology and team. The researchers wondered if the BACTERIA in the pandas’ guts affected their weight.

They analyzed bacteria levels in poop from wild and captive pandas during shoot-eating and leaf-eating season. They then transplanted the waste into MICE stomachs and tracked the mice’s weight.

And? They found more of ONE particular bacteria in the shoot poop compared to leaf poop. Mice given shoot excrement gained weight TEN PERCENT faster and stored TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT more fat.

These special microbes compensate for the low-fat shoots! They cause pandas to PACK on the pounds. These findings show a connection between gut bacteria and weight gain.

Watch out for that panda bamBOOTY!

Reference: Huang, G., Wang, L., Li, J., Hou, R., Wang, M., Wang, Z., Qu, Q., Zhou, W., Nie, Y., Hu, Y., Ma, Y., Yan, L., Wei, H., & Wei, F. Seasonal shift of the gut microbiome synchronizes host peripheral circadian rhythm for physiological adaptation to a low-fat diet in the giant panda. Cell Reports, 38(3), 110203.