How Escherichia Coli Move

Exercise Your Gut Bacteria

The interaction between gut bacteria, obesity, diet, and physical activity just keeps getting more interesting and complex. New research suggests that physical activity may interact with diet to promote more diverse gut bacteria in athletes, compared to less active controls.

Unfortunately, the reporting on this research glossed over the complexity of this three-way interaction. Headlines went for a simplistic claim that “exercise boosts the diversity of gut bacteria.” Such simplification is wrong on two counts. This research really doesn’t pin down a cause and effect relationship. And it’s a three-way relationship at the very least.

Nonetheless, this study provides helpful insight. Though the interaction of gut microbes with diet, inflammation, and obesity has been studied extensively, the role of exercise has not been examined so closely. Siobhan Clarke and colleagues analyzed the physical activity, dietary patterns, inflammatory markers, metabolic parameters, and microbiota of 40 professional rugby players. For controls, they recruited two groups of non-athletes based on size. One group had BMI ≤ 25, the other group had BMI > 28.

In the athletes, they found higher microbial diversity and creatine kinase (consistent with extreme exercise), lower inflammation, higher protein intake, and better markers of metabolic health.

This research is a mid-point in work to understand the role of gut microbes in metabolic health.

“People who jump to conclusions rarely alight on them.” — Philip Guedalla

Click here to read more from MedicalXpress, here to read the study, and here to read a companion commentary.

How Escherichia Coli Move, Illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation / flickr

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