Microbiome Bites Feb 5th: Exercise for the Microbiome, Psychobiotics and Computer-diagnosed Dysbiosis

Exercise for a healthy microbiome

1. Exercise to Fix Dysbiosis

Reduced microbial diversity, i.e. a poor mix of healthy gut bacteria, has been linked to a plethora of diseases such as diabetes, colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Previous research has suggested that exercise may improve a persons overall health by helping to improve the mix (diversity) of the gut microbiome. However, analysing the microbiomes of athletes can be difficult due to their high-protein diets.

Now a team from the University of British Columbia has managed to analyse the microbiomes of 39 healthy people with similar age, BMI, and diets but with varying fitness levels. 

The researchers found that fitness correlated with increased diversity (a good mix) of the gut microbiome along with an increased production of the short chain fatty acid butyrate. These were independent of diet. The findings support the role of exercise as a beneficial addition in the treatment of conditions associated with microbiome dysbiosis.

The study is here.

2. Teaching Computers to Identify Sick Guts

A study from researchers at the University of California San Diego has succeeded in training computers to recognize what healthy and unhealthy gut microbiomes look like based on their genetic makeup. Because this can be done by analysing poop, the researchers think that it has great potential to be used as a non-invasive diagnostic tool.

The study is here (pdf).

3. The Potential of Bifidobacterium longum as a Psychobiotic

If you’ve not heard about psychobiotics, the concept is simple: probiotics with potential mental health benefits. There are currently no proven psychobiotics, but animal research shows promise and human studies are well under way.

Recent preclinical studies have identified the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium longum 1714 as a potential psychobiotic that influences stress-related behaviours and cognitive performance. Now a team from the University of Cork has run a placebo-controlled study with 22 healthy volunteers (a fairly small sample) to test whether taking this potential psychobiotic could affect the stress response, cognition and brain activity patterns.

In the study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the researchers found that participants who took B. longum 1714 for 4-weeks made less cortisol (a stress hormone) when put under stress, compared to those taking the placebo. Those taking the psychobiotic also reported less stress in their daily lives. The team also noticed subtle improvements in memory, attention, social awareness and emotional processing. These are fairly small, early studies, but they show a lot of promise.

The study is here.