The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Community News Network

December 11, 2013

Harvard study finds diet changes gut bacteria within a day

WASHINGTON — A change in diet quickly alters the types of bacteria living in the human gut, a finding that suggests this rapid adaptability to different foods can be used to control illnesses tied to stomach microbes, researchers said.

Switching to an animal-based diet increased the number of microorganisms that process protein, while a plant-based diet increased the number of bacteria that help process starch and cellulose, according to a study led by Harvard University researchers published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The change in the bacteria populations occurred within a day.

Trillions of microorganisms live in the human gut, helping to digest food, fight disease-causing germs and process nutrients. Research has suggested that diets high in fat and sugar may change the human gut's bugs, perhaps contributing to chronic illness, the study authors wrote. Previous work in mice suggested that the microbiome could change within a day, though until now, the effect hadn't been replicated in humans.

"It's exciting and gratifying to find out this holds up in people," said Lawrence David, who was one of the Harvard researchers and is now an assistant professor at Duke University's Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy. "We're getting an increasing appreciation of how flexible and responsive the microbiome is, even on a very short time scale."

Humans are home to more than 10,000 species of microbes, mostly bacteria that live in healthy symbiosis, according to the Human Microbiome Project. The trillions of microorganisms that live in and on the body outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, according to research published in 2012 in Nature and the Public Library of Science journals.

Scientists are just beginning to explore the composition of these ecosystems, said David. Knowing how these organisms interact with their host can reveal more about illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.

The 11 people studied were allowed to eat as they normally did for four days, writing down what they ate and submitting fecal samples to the researchers. Then they consumed what was provided to them by researchers for four days, and were watched for six days afterward. That meant that each person essentially served as their own control group, David said.

The plant-based diet, which boosted fiber intake significantly and dropped fat and protein intakes, led to very few changes in the existing microbes. The animal-based diet had almost no fiber intake had a "really big shift," David said.

The animal-based diet caused changes in the population, including an increase in the anaerobic bacteria Bilophila wadsworthia, which is known to cause colitis in mice. The bacteria seem to thrive with the increased intake of fat, David said. Some bacteria also changed their gene expression with the diet, the study found.

"Perhaps in prehistoric groups, when there was a lot more volatility in terms of what you can forage or hunt for, this could have been very useful," David said. "It creates a way of buffering nutritional changes and may have enabled ancient humans to be a little more flexible with their diet."

Further research may focus on how food preparation affects the bacterial colonization, David said.

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • When your doctor commits suicide, things get complicated

    When they call for appointments, patients are told they can't see their doctor. Ever. The standard line: "We are sorry, but your doctor died suddenly."

    July 15, 2014

  • NWS-HB0713-HowardMartin-004.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    The mystery of what happened to a military transport plane that disappeared in the fall of 1952 into an Alaskan glacier was solved two years ago when a helicopter crew spotted the wreckage. But it took another two years to retrieve the remains of Airman Howard Miller and 16 other servicemen passengers. Saturday, Miller was laid to rest in his hometown of Elwood, Ind., with full military honors. Hundreds turned out for the funeral and burial services.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps

     I climbed the ladder quickly, free to work any hours in any location for any pay. I moved from market to market, always achieving a better title, a better salary. Succeeding.

    July 8, 2014

  • Nation's first soda tax could come to Berkeley

    The Berkeley City Council unanimously decided last week to put the 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the ballot this November. Approving the tax would mean a major defeat for the soda industry, which has spent millions to crush the effort nationwide.

    July 7, 2014

  • President Barack Obama mug Best president? Worst president? Don't read too much into those polls

    The questions about who are the best and worst post-WWII presidents are useless. What they mainly show is that Republicans are far more unified around a single story than are Democrats.

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • What states can do on their own about immigration

    It's official: Congress won't take up immigration reform this year. This week, President Barack Obama said he'll use executive actions to change policies unilaterally.

    July 1, 2014

  • The Internet has changed how we curse

    Relatively recent technologies — cable television, satellite radio, and social media — provide us with a not-too-unrealistic picture of how often people swear in public and what they say when they do.

    June 24, 2014

  • May 2014 was the hottest may in recorded history

    According to new data released this week, May 2014 is officially the warmest May in recorded history.
    Both NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency have tentatively ranked May at the top of historical measurements, though NASA's numbers are preliminary because crucial information is still missing from China.

    June 18, 2014

  • facebook.png Facebook making big changes to its advertisements

    Facebook is making significant changes to the advertisements on its network, and said Thursday that it will give users more control over which ads they see on its network.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

Front page
Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Poll

What are your plans for the weekend?

Enjoying the outdoors
Staying in out of the heat
Traveling
Other
     View Results
AP Video
Olympics 2014
Featured Comment
Featured Ads
Blue Zones Project
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.