Herbs and Helpers
Two experts from the University of New South Wales explain everything
Diet is a crucial in regulating the bacteria that colonise our gut, they say
They help control metabolism and are vital for keeping colon cells healthy
But gut microbiota can change quickly and health outcomes can improve
When we can’t lose weight, we tend to want to blame something outside of our control.
Could it be related to the microbiota – the bacteria and other organisms – that colonise your gut?
Now, two experts from the University of New South Wales reveal exactly the trillions of microorganisms work.
Here, in a piece for The Conversation, they explain how the bacteria in the gut affect our eating habits and weight.
Microorganisms harvest energy from food, regulating the immune function, and keeping the lining of our gut healthy, two experts from the University of New South Wales say
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Our gut harbours some trillion microorganisms.
These are key in harvesting energy from our food, regulating our immune function, and keeping the lining of our gut healthy.
The composition of our gut microbiota is partly determined by our genes but can also be influenced by lifestyle factors such as our diet, alcohol intake and exercise, as well as medications.
The bacteria in the gut obtain energy for growth when we metabolise nutrients from food.
So our diet is a crucial factor in regulating the type of bacteria that colonise our gut.
One key role of the gut microbiota is degrading the carbohydrates we can’t digest into short-chain fatty acids.
These help regulate our metabolism and are also important for keeping our colon cells healthy.
The composition of our gut microbiota is partly determined by genes but can also be influenced by lifestyle factors such as our diet, alcohol intake and exerciseChanges in our diet can rapidly change the gut microbiota.
Generally, a high-fibre diet which is low in saturated fat and sugar is associated with a healthier gut microbiome, characterised by a greater diversity of organisms.
On the other hand, diets high in saturated fat and refined sugars with low fibre content reduce the microbial diversity, which is bad for our health.
Our animal studies have shown that consuming an unhealthy diet for only three days a week has detrimental effects on the gut microbiota, even when a healthy diet is eaten for the other four days.
This may be because the gut microbiota are under selective pressure to manipulate the hosts’ eating behaviour to increase their own fitness.
This may lead to cravings, akin to your system being ‘hijacked’ by your microbiota.
CAN GUT MICROBIOTA CHANGES LEAD TO OBESITY?
Many studies have found that the gut of an obese person is more likely to contain bacteria that inflame the gastrointestinal tract and damage its lining
Bacteria in humans fall into two major classifications: bacteroidetes and firmicutes.
Obesity is associated with a reduction in the ratio of bacteroidetes to firmicutes but weight loss can reverse this shift.
Many studies have found that the gut of an obese person is more likely to contain bacteria that inflame the gastrointestinal tract and damage its lining.
This allows the bacteria in the gut to escape.
We still don’t know definitively if changes in the gut microbiota from an unhealthy diet can contribute to obesity.
Most evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from animal studies; for instance, the transfer of faecal material from an obese human can lead to weight gain in a recipient mouse.
One possibility is that the obese microbiota may be more efficient in harvesting energy, in part, by influencing the host to eat foods which favour its growth.
This could ultimately contribute to weight gain.
GUT CHANGES AFTER WEIGHT-LOSS SURGERY
Gastric bypass-induced weight loss has also been associated with increased diversity of the gut microbiota (stock)
Bariatric surgeries such as gastric bypass, are one of the most effective treatments for obesity because they reduce the size of the stomach.
This limits how much food can be eaten and has also been shown to promote the release of hormones which make us feel full.
But other factors may be involved. Intriguingly, some patients report a shift in food preference away from energy-dense foods after surgery.
This may contribute to the success of the procedure.
Gastric bypass-induced weight loss has also been associated with increased diversity of the gut microbiota.
But how much this contributes to the success of the procedure remains to be determined.
One possibility is that the changes in food preferences reported in bariatric patients may relate to changes in the composition of their gut microbiota.
HOW GUT MICROBIOTA AFFECT OUR BEHAVIOUR
Several studies have shown that depression is associated with changes in the gut microbiome of humans, they say
Apart from regulating gut health, there is compelling experimental evidence that gut microbiota play a role in regulating mood.
Several studies have shown that depression is associated with changes in the gut microbiome of humans.
Depressed patients showed changes in their abundance of firmicutes, actinobacteria and bacteroidetes.
When these patients’ gut microbiota was transferred to mice, the mice showed more depressive behaviour than mice that received biota from healthy people.
More work still needs to be done as it is unclear whether this may indicate a causal relationship, or be related to other factors associated with depressive disorders such as a poor diet, changed sleep patterns and drug treatment.
BLOOD PRESSURE TABLETS RAISE RISK OF DEPRESSION
Taking common blood pressure tablets could increase the risk of depression, a study warned last week.
Researchers found patients on beta blockers and calcium channel blockers – used to stabilise blood pressure – were twice as likely to be hospitalised with mood disorders.
While those on ACE inhibitors actually had a reduced risk of a depressive episode, scientists from Glasgow University discovered.
Professor Dr Sandosh Padmanabhan, at the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences who led the study said the implications of mental health for patients with high blood pressure was ‘under-recognised.’
Emerging evidence suggests that gut microbiota can influence other behaviours through the ‘microbiota-gut-brain axis’.
Put simply, the gut and the brain communicate in part via the microbiota, which links the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain with our intestinal functions.
Recent work from our lab showed that rats consuming diets high in saturated fat or sugar, for just two weeks, had impaired spatial memory.
These rats consumed the same amount of energy as the control rats (those on a regular diet) and were also a similar body weight.
We found that the memory deficits were associated with changes in the gut microbiota composition and genes related to inflammation in the hippocampus, which is a key brain region for memory and learning.
Similar memory deficits have also been reported when healthy mice were transplanted with microbiota from overweight mice who had been fed a high-fat diet.
Together, studies such as these suggest the gut microbiota could play a causal role in regulating behaviour.
This may, in part, be due to the different microbiota profiles influencing the production of key transmitters such as serotonin.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
Eating a healthy diet of unprocessed foods, including adequate fibre, avoiding excess alcohol and getting enough exercise are key to having positive levels of gut microbiota
Further research is needed into the relationship between poor diet, the gut microbiota and behavioural changes.
In the long term, such knowledge may be harnessed to develop targeted therapeutic interventions to replace relevant microbiota diminished by an unhealthy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, the good news is that the gut microbiota can change relatively quickly and we have the capacity to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria which may ultimately improve a range of health outcomes.
Eating a healthy diet of unprocessed foods, including adequate fibre, avoiding excess alcohol and getting enough exercise are key.
Source: Daily Mail
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Cutting calories may dial back ‘metabolic syndrome’ in older adults
Herbs and Helpers
(Reuters Health) – For overweight and obese older men and women, adding calorie restriction to a resistance training schedule improves at least some metabolic markers, according to a new study.
Although resistance training alone seemed to have no effect on so-called metabolic syndrome – a group of markers linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease – the exercise is still important for maintaining bone and muscle in older people, researchers say.
“The results are not really surprising as it is challenging to improve the cardiometabolic profile with resistance training only,” said lead author Eve Normandin of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“There are some studies in middle-aged adults that do see some improvements following resistance training but not many in older adults,” Normandin told Reuters Health by email.
Metabolic syndrome is the term for a cluster of symptoms, including abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, inflammation and impaired processing of insulin.
Older people are at the greatest risk of having metabolic syndrome, Normandin and her colleagues write in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Past studies have shown that weight loss can help reverse metabolic syndrome, so can aerobic exercise with or without dieting. But most of these studies have been in middle aged people, the authors write.
In the five-month trial, 63 sedentary and overweight or obese adults aged 65 to 79 years were assigned to a progressive resistance training program three times per week while 63 similar adults were assigned to the same program plus calorie restriction.
The resistance training program was individually tailored to participants and generally included three sets of 10 repetitions for eight exercises at each workout. The calorie restriction group was also assigned a dietary program including meal replacements, nutrition education and behavior modification advice delivered at weekly meetings with a registered dietitian. Participants were assigned a daily caloric goal and kept a diet log of all foods consumed.
Overall, those doing only resistance training did not lose any weight by the end of the trial, but participants also restricting their calories lost an average 6 percent of their body weight as well as specifically reducing fat around the abdomen.
The calorie restricted group also lowered their blood pressure, triglycerides and one of the “bad” forms of cholesterol, very low density lipoprotein. There were no changes in metabolic syndrome markers in the group doing only resistance training.
“Many studies have shown that reducing calories is the key to changing the health factors this study focused on – cholesterol, triglycerides, obesity, and insulin resistance,” said Dr. Anne McTiernan of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
“Other studies have shown some benefit on these when comparing exercise to no exercise (whether aerobic or resistance exercise), but reducing calories consistently overpowers exercise effects,” said McTiernan, who wasn’t involved with the new study.
“I wouldn’t say that caloric restriction is the only way to manage metabolic syndrome,” Normandin said. “Resistance training is one type of exercise, we might have observed improvement in metabolic syndrome following an aerobic exercise.”
Resistance training has beneficial effects on muscle and physical function which can improve body composition, muscle strength and physical function in older adults who were overweight or obese, she said.
“Individuals who are 65 years and older, have the metabolic syndrome and are overweight or obese should progressively try to lose weight by caloric restriction,” Normandin said. “I would recommend adding strength training in older individuals with metabolic syndrome to preserve musculoskeletal health and function as well.”
“People can undertake a caloric restriction without consulting a doctor but I would recommend they consult a registered dietitian,” she said. “This is especially true for people who have one or more chronic diseases.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2em7QkQ Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, online October 13, 2016.
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