12 January - 20 June 2016

Effect of diet and exercise on gut microbial diversity

18 June 14

Is exercise the key to diversifying gut microbial activity? According to a study conducted jointly by scientists at the Teagasc Food Research Centre and University College Cork, with the support of the Irish Rugby Football Union, it could well be! Gut microbes can have a significant impact on human health, and there is an increasing belief that they are a vital part of our defences against disease. High diversity in these microbes is generally associated with good health and, conversely, low diversity is associated with disease and syndromes such as autism, GI diseases and obesity.

The researchers' aim was, for the first time, to investigate the impact of both exercise and diet on this diversity in humans. Using a group of 40 men from the Irish Rugby football team (average age 29, BMI 29.1) and two further groups of healthy men from the general public (BMIs >28 and <25) as a control, information on gut microbial diversity in each group was gathered through faecal and blood samples. This data was then looked at together with the results of detailed food frequency questionnaires and body composition analysis.

The diversity in gut microbiota was found to be much higher in the rugby team than in the control group, and linked particularly to exercise and protein consumption.

These results suggest that eating specific proteins and/or taking more exercise could help increase microbial diversity in the gut. Further research is still required, however, to fully understand how and to what extent exercise affects microbiota diversity; whether this effect differs between individuals with different levels of fitness; and how the impacts of exercise and associated dietary change can be distinguished. [ScienceDaily, PopSci]

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