Do you have the bug for running?
Microbes in our intestines not only help digest food and fight disease, but can make us better runners too.
In 10 seconds? Scientists have discovered that top athletes carry different microbes in their intestines compared to the average person. Additionally, the study of over 100 trillion types of microbes in our guts can offer protection against diseases and reduce obesity. (Read how targeting microbes helps to fight heart disease)
My gut instinct says ‘be sceptical…’ Well, you shouldn’t! Post-race samples collected from marathon runners contained an increased amount of bacteria in their gut microbiome that can break down lactic acid. This suggests that top athletes can recover faster after a workout due to the type of microbes living in their gut, while us, mere mortals, develop nagging muscle pain! Researchers also found that different sports can foster different microbial profiles in athletes. (Read about the research here)
OK, so is it just about fitness? Absolutely not. You might not be impressed by a future supplement helping with recovery or sports nutrition, but the fact of the matter is, those tiny microbes in our gut can seriously affect our wellbeing. Depending on the balance of good and bad microbes, we can become more or less prone to develop various diseases, even brain dysfunction! (Read the science here)
And how do I get the balance right? It’s not that easy as it turns out humans have the lowest gut bacterial diversity among primates. This is due to evolution and… you’ve guessed right, ‘our modern lifestyle’. As mentioned, microbes and their metabolic products can induce diseases, so current research is focusing on how to switch off the bad ones, which could be the next frontier for drug discovery. (Learn more here)
You mean we can neutralise the ‘bad microbes’ in the future? The idea is to avoid bad metabolites produced by microbes by introducing modified bacteria into the gut. There are already promising results for targeting obesity: experiments with lab mice kept on a high-fat diet suggested that the added bacteria significantly reduced the food intake and weight gain in mice. Of course, you might prefer to wait for a supplement to turn you into the Mo Farah of your local park! (Read more here)
Why should you eat fermented food to keep your gut microbiota happy?
Eating fermented food helps to maintain the right amount of good bacteria in your gut, and can diminish allergies. A population study found that communities of people who eat a lot of fermented food have lower rates of allergies and asthma.
People who have rheumatoid arthritis have low levels of Bifidbacterium and Bacteroides in their gut. In an animal study, arthritic mice had the good bacteria removed from their gut and this resulted in worse arthritic symptoms. This shows that it is important for those with arthritis to have good bacteria in the gut microbiome. (Learn more in this dedicated board by Sparrho Hero, Gemma Zeybel)
This research was curated by Linda Zhang, Sparrho Hero and postdoctoral researcher working on gut physiology and biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
(Psst, Linda distilled 13 research papers to save you 317.5 min)