Wow: Studies show exercise enhances healthy gut flora

Thursday, June 09, 2016 by

( Does good health merely hinge on genetic factors, or is there more? New research from the University of Cork suggests that good health begins more so in the gut, in the diversity of stomach microbes, which can be heavily influenced by daily exercise levels. The study, published in the journal Gut, has shocked scientists, showing how exercise can enhance the diversity of microbes in the gut, strengthening one’s ability to metabolize energy and ward off pathogens.

Trillions of microorganisms live in the adult microbiome of the human gut. These bacteria colonies are responsible for breaking down toxins and utilizing vitamins and essential amino acids. They are the backbone of the immune system, assisting efficient metabolism while preventing invaders from entering the blood.

Exercise correlated with accelerated metabolic processes

In the study, a team of researchers examined blood samples and fecal matter of 40 rugby players. The rugby players underwent a training program full of intense exercise workouts. Additionally, the men answered questions during the four-week study, recording what they ate and how often from a list of 187 food items.

Their results were compared with results from a group of 46 healthy but inactive men. The comparison group was equivalent in physical size and age to the rugby players. The only difference between the two groups was the intensity of daily exercise periods during the four-week study.

In the group of inactive men, 23 participants had a body mass index of 25 or less. The other half of the comparison group had a high BMI measuring 28 or above.

When blood tests were compared, the inactive men had lower levels of creatine kinase, which are enzymes denoting tissue damage. However, these inactive men also possessed higher levels of inflammation markers. The researchers observed that exercise causes tissue wear and tear but also encourages biochemical processes for recuperation, including anti-inflammatory markers.

More importantly, the rugby players had a superior metabolic profile, especially when compared to the inactive men with higher body mass index. Exercise practically accelerated metabolic processes initiated in the gut, helping rugby players harness the energy from food more effectively.

Exercise increases total number of gut microbes and diversity thereof

The most interesting part of the study was that the rugby players had a much greater total number of gut microbiota. The researchers also measured greater diversity of microbes as well. 

Rugby players had significantly higher proportions of 48 taxa of bacteria than the inactive men with high BMI.

“Our findings indicate that exercise is another important factor in the relationship between the microbiota, host immunity and host metabolism, with diet playing an important role,” said the researchers.

The rugby players measured higher in Akkermansiaceae, a bacterium associated with lower levels of obesity. Apparently, exercise may do more than just help people lose weight. It seems to influence the diversity of gut bacteria to assist in proper metabolism, which is more important in the long run than just the burning of calories.

Further analysis of the rugby players’ dietary habits showed that they ate more from the various food groups, diversifying their nutrient consumption. Most of their energy intake was measured in the form of protein intake at 22 percent. Many of the athletes took protein supplements. The inactive men ate less protein (15-16%). Rugby players also ate more fruits and vegetables and less junk food snacks.

“Understanding the complex relationship among what we choose to eat, activity levels and gut microbiota richness is essential,” said Dr. Georgina Hold from the Institute of Medical Sciences, Aberdeen University.

“As life expectancy continues to increase, it is important that we understand how best to maintain good health. Never has this been more important than in respect of our resident microbiota,” she said.

Reporting by L.J. Devon,

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