12 January - 20 June 2016

Lifestyle, diet and health linked to gut flora composition

ut microbiota composition has been linked to disease as well as health and well-being. It is however reported that there is lack of knowledge about factors that can influence gut microbiome. Understanding what is normal can help with the treatment of disease.

Gut microbiota composition has been linked to disease as well as health and well-being. It is however reported that there is lack of knowledge about factors that can influence gut microbiome. Understanding what is normal can help with the treatment of disease.

To identify factors linked to gut microbiome, a study published in the journal Science by Raes et al. analysed human stool samples, blood samples and data from online questionnaires from 1106 participants involved in the Belgian Flemish Gut Flora Project (FGFP) and verified their findings using data from 1135 participants involved in the Dutch LifeLines-Deep study (LLDeep).  From this analysis Raes et al. identified 69 factors linked to gut flora composition.  Many factors were related to transit time, diet, medication use, gender, age and overall health.  Transit time, as measured by self-assessed Bristol Stool Scale Score (BBS), was reported to have the heaviest influence on gut microbiota composition, and diet, particularly fibre intake was also found to have a key role.  Those who consumed white, low fibre bread, were found to have a reduced microbiota diversity.  Chocolate consumption, particularly dark chocolate consumption, was found to be a factor of driving the presence of unclassified Lachnospiraceae.  Beer consumption was also found to be a key influence on gut microbiota.

Medications also had a strong link to gut flora, with association found for anitobiotics, laxatives, hay fever drugs, and hormones used in the pill and to alleviate menopause symptoms.   However Rae et al. state that early life events, such as whether a participant was breast fed as a baby were not reflected in adult microbiota composition.

The LLDeep study was reported to confirm 90% of the factors identified in the FGFP. The scientists also combined their results with 3000 samples from around the world and identified 14 bacterial species that are present in the gut microbiome of each and every person.  They note that overall the 69 factors account for about 7% of the variation between individuals, indicating that genetics and the bacteria itself may play a more important role. 

Raes et al state “These results are essential for disease studies.  Parkinson’s disease, for example, is typically associated with a longer intestinal transit time, which in turn impact microbiota compositions.” 

Another study published in Science, has also analysed 1100 stools samples from the LLDeep programme to also investigate the effect of food and medicine on bacterial diversity.  The study by Wijmenga et al. mapped all gut bacterial DNA to examine what factors impact the diversity of the microbiome.  The study identified 60 factors that influence diversity. 

In brief the study reports that those who consumed yogurt (probiotics) or buttermilk had a greater diversity of gut bacteria.  Coffee, tea and wine were also found to increase the diversity, while whole milk and a high calorie diet decrease it.  However, when it came to other types of food like fruits and vegetables, the authors stated that they “didn’t know the answer.” Similar to the findings by Raes et al., this study, which also include Raes on the team, reported that some 19 different types of medicine, including antacids, antibiotics, and a certain diabetes drug, also have a big influence on microbiome diversity.

RSSL has considerable experience in developing or re-formulating products to include probiotics.  Using RSSL can help speed up your development cycle considerably.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com 

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