We Are Bugs

We Are Bugs - and our bugs are what we eat

Our health is directly linked to the diversity of bugs that we intimately interact with. We are not just what we eat, but what our gut guests eat too.

According to a recent paper in Nature and reported on Pub Med people with a lower diversity of microbial organisms in their gut are more likely to get overweight. Measuring the diversity of organisms, or the ‘gene richness’ could be a good marker for informing appropriate treatment options or “predictive efficacy of intervention”.

The greater the variety of bugs in the gut, the more complex the gene mix will be and it is considered to be this interaction which is important in the development of obesity. The reason for this is that different mixes of bugs will have different abilities to digest food and hence influence the ability for humans to absorb the food, or ‘harvest’ the energy. The key factor determining the gut bug mix is of course, what we eat. Or, as the scientists say, “changes in dietary composition change the composition of gut microbial populations”.

The research into this area has been recently boosted by the ability to now directly measure the overall gene mix, as opposed to having to manually identify and count all of the individual bug species. This is referred to as the ‘metagenomic approach’.

First human gut microbial gene catalogue

This approach has already allowed scientists to classify us depending on our gut bug mix into different types known as ‘enterotypes’.

In early experiments to look at the relationships between food intake, gut microbiota and metabolic and inflammatory phenotypes, the scientists conducted diet-induced weight-loss and weight-stabilization interventions in 38 obese and 11 overweight individuals. They report that the people with reduced microbial gene richness (40%) also have more pronounced metabolic problems and low-grade inflammation. So, improving the diet also improved the gene richness as well as clinical outcome. They say, “Low gene richness may therefore have predictive potential for the efficacy of intervention.”

A viral infection affecting the respiratory system. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
Relating to metabolism. Full medical glossary
Excess accumulation of fat in the body. Full medical glossary