TMS Could Alter Gut Bacteria and Aid Weight Loss

Ground-breaking research has shown that TMS treatment could be used to fundamentally alter the composition of gut bacteria.

By using TMS to alter gut bacteria, consequential benefits include weight loss as well as general improvements in other metabolic and hormonal factors.

Previous studies have shown that an imbalance in gut bacteria can affect the brain signals for appetite. A team at the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato and University of Milan set out to explore how TMS treatment could be used to alter the composition of a subject’s gut microbiota (microorganisms including bacteria, archaea, protists, fungi and viruses). If gut bacteria influence appetite, altering its composition could ultimately aid in weight loss.

Research and Results

The test group received 15 TMS sessions over 5 weeks and were compared to a control group who received ‘sham’ treatments.  The scientists compared their microbiota, insulin, glucose, pituitary gland hormones and norepinephrine (which is known to affect microbiota composition).

After 5 weeks, the test group who had been treated with TMS had lost over 3% of their total body weight and over 4% of their fat. They also had greatly altered gut microbiota composition, including higher levels of several beneficial bacteria associated with anti-inflammatory properties and a general improvement in certain hormonal parameters.

The control group had no clinically relevant changes in any of these areas.

Professor Livio Luzi, head of the research team, said:

“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.”

Gut Brain Axis

The “gut-brain axis” is the biochemical signaling which takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. Researchers exploring the interaction between brain function and gut bacteria are finding it to be significantly more complex and comprehensive than previously known.

This research is the first which has demonstrated the potential of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for altering gut microbiota. It shows potential for future development of the treatment to tackle obesity.

Worldwide Obesity Crisis

Obesity has become a major health issue and is linked to a variety of associated conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. According to the World Health Organization‘s figures,

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980
  • Over 1.9 billion adults overweight or obese (2014)
  • 39% of adults overweight or obese (2014)

Although obesity is preventable, it is a difficult area and obesity rates are rising rather than falling.

New treatments offer new hope for the rising obesity figures which have been described as an ‘epidemic’. 

Smart TMS

rTMS offers medics a medication-free, non-invasive treatment which can work directly on the brain to ‘reset’ certain patterns. In the UK, this treatment is NICE approved for treating depression.

The treatment is now available for private patients in London at Smart TMS, a specialist provider of the innovative treatment based at The Smart Clinics Brompton Cross (South Kensington). The treatment will shortly be available in the Company’s new Birmingham clinic.

There is strong research to support rTMS for treating a host of other conditions too and Smart TMS in London is among very few in the UK using TMS technology to treat other conditions, including: Anxiety, BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), Chronic Primary Insomnia, DPD, Drug Addiction, OCD, PTSD.


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