Looks like Harvard University scientists have given us another reason to walk past the cheese platter at holiday parties and reach for the carrot sticks instead: Your gut bacteria will thank you.
Switching to a diet packed with meat and cheese — and very few carbohydrates — alters the trillions of microbes living in the gut, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The change happens quickly. Within two days, the types of microbes thriving in the gut shuffle around. And there are signs that some of these shifts might not be so good for your gut: One type of bacterium that flourishes under the meat-rich diet has been linked to inflammation and intestinal diseases in mice.
In particular, microbes that "love bile" — the Bilophila — started to dominate the volunteers' guts during the animal-based diet. Bile helps the stomach digest fats. So people make more bile when their diet is rich in meat and dairy fats.
A study last year found that blooms of Bilophila cause inflammation and colitis in mice. "But we didn't measure levels of inflammation in our subjects," David says. "That's the next step."
Instead, he says, his team's data support the overall animal model that Bilophila promotes inflammation, which could ultimately be controlled by diet.
"Our study is a proof of concept that you can modify the microbiome through diet," David says. "But we're still a long ways off from being able to manipulate the community in any kind of way that an engineer would be pleased about."
Even just classifying Bilophila as "bad bacteria" is a tricky matter, says Dr. Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. [Purna Kashyap, MBBS, has several projects within the Center for Individualized Medicine's Microbiome Translational Program.]
"These bacteria are members of a community that have lived in harmony with us for thousands of years," says Kashyap, who wasn't involved in the study. "You can't just pick out one member of this whole team and say it's bad. Most bacteria in the gut are here for our benefit, but given the right environment, they can turn on us and cause disease."
Full Article: NPR Blog.