The method via which a baby is born has a dramatic impact on its gut bacteria and could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more likely to experience health problems later in life, a new study has found. The study by Wellcome Sanger Institute, UCL, and the University of Birmingham – the largest of its kind – looked at babies’ microbiomes (the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our guts) to see if they formed differently depending on how a baby was born. For the research, samples were taken on a regular basis from the nappies of 600 babies in their first month of life. The results showed that vaginally born babies got most of their first bacteria from their mothers. However, babies born via Caesarean section showed high levels of hospital bugs, with some having as much as 30% of their total microbiomes made up by such bugs. It’s a reality that could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more susceptible to certain conditions when they are older, like allergies, asthma and type 1 diabetes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “What surprised me and scared me was the amount of healthcare bugs showing up in these children. “But what excites me is we have an amazing body of data now that we can build on, to think about how to properly establish the human ecosystem, starting at birth.”
Drinking red wine (in moderation) could be good for your gut, according to researchers from the UK. The team from King’s College London says red wine contains compounds that help increase the number of different types of bacteria that live in the gut. The micronutrients, known as polyphenols, are more abundant in red wine vs. beer, cider and white wine, and act as fuel for microbes living inside the bowel. Polyphenols are found in many fruits and vegetables, including the grapes used to make red wine. The researchers say even just one glass of red wine a fortnight can make a difference, but warn that their findings should not be used as an excuse to binge drink. Publishing its research in the journal Gastroenterology, the team said the “friendly” bugs in our gut help keep us healthy. Even small changes in our gut microbiota – the community of bugs that live there – can make us more susceptible to conditions like obesity, heart disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The gut microbiota of people who drink red wine was found to be more diverse than that of those who do not drink wine. Furthermore, the more wed wine consumed, the greater the levels of diversity – although it’s important to note that nobody involved in the trial was a heavy drinker. Speaking about the findings of their research, Dr Caroline Le Roy said: “If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease.”
So-called ‘good bacteria’ that are contained in many popular probiotic drinks are “quite useless,” according to a group of scientists in Israel. Until now, probiotics have been seen as healthy and good for the gut, but the findings of the team from the Weizmann Institute of Science show otherwise. Their study is among the most detailed analyses to date of what happens when we consume probiotics. For their research, the team created a cocktail containing 11 common good bacteria and gave it to 25 healthy volunteers. Samples were then taken from each of the volunteer’s stomachs, as well as their small and large intestines. The scientists were looking to see where the bacteria successfully colonised and whether any changes in the activity of the gut were evident. Publishing their findings in the journal Cell, the scientists said that in half of cases the good bacteria literally went in one end and out the other, without providing any benefits whatsoever. In the rest, they hung around for a bit before being overwhelmed by the bacteria that commonly frequents our bodies. Speaking about the research, Dr Eran Elinav said people should not expect off-the-shelf products to provide them with definitive health benefits. He suggested that the future of probiotics lies in creating bacteria cocktails that are tailored to the specific needs of individuals. “And in that sense just buying probiotics at the supermarket without any tailoring, without any adjustment to the host, at least in part of the population, is quite useless,” he said.
Most people get cravings for high-calories foods, such as chocolate and pizza, from time to time. But new research suggests that such cravings can be reduced by consuming a supplement called inulin-propionate ester. Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found that study participants who drank milkshakes containing the gut bacteria-based supplement were less likely to crave high-calorie foods. Presenting their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers said the supplement works by increasing the amount of propionate in the gut - a compound that is released naturally when a person consumes the fibre inulin, which is found in artichokes, bananas and asparagus. Inulin slows digestion, increase fullness and reduces appetite, and it is already used as a dietary supplement today. For the study, the researchers asked a group of 20 healthy men to drink milkshakes. Half of the group's milkshakes contained inulin-propionate ester, while the other half contained just inulin alone. The researchers then showed the men pictures of different foods; some high calorie, some low calorie. The study participants' brain activities were monitored throughout to see how they reacted to the various pictures. The group that drank the milkshakes containing inulin-propionate ester displayed reduced activity in their brains' reward centres - the caudate and the nucleus accumbens (both associated with food cravings) - but only when they were looking at images of high-calorie foods. In addition to being showed the food images, the men were then given equal-sized bowls of pasta and told to eat as much as they wanted. The inulin-propionate ester group consumed around 10% less than their inulin only counterparts. Dr. Douglas Morrison from the University of Glasgow, who co-authored the study, said that the research illustrates how important gut microbiota signals are for regulating appetite and influencing people's food choices.
New research suggests that the impact of dietary fats on our overall health is likely to be affected by the changes they cause in the stomach’s bacteria ecosystem. The findings, which were obtained by studies in mice, show that diets rich in omega-3 fats, such as fish oil, affect the gut’s balance of bacteria differently to diets rich in lard. Senior researcher Professor Fredrik Bäckhed, from the University of Gothenburg’s faculty of Health Sciences, also known as the Sahlgrenska Academy, led the team of European researchers who discovered that changes in gut microbiota are responsible for some of their health benefits. “We wanted to determine whether gut microbes directly contribute to the metabolic differences associated with diets rich in healthy and unhealthy fats,” said first study author Robert Caesar from the University of Gothenburg. And, even though the study was done in mice, he said: “our goal is to identify interventions for optimising metabolic health in humans.” Writing in the journal Cell Metabolism, Bäckhed’s team said they obtained their results by feeding either lard or fish oil to a group of mice for a period of 11 weeks. They then monitored the metabolic health of the study mice and found that dietary fat is a major community structure driver, which in turn affects the composition and diversity of gut microbiota. “We were surprised that the lard and the fish oil diet, despite having the same energy content and the same amount of dietary fibre—which is the primary energy source for the gut bacteria—resulted in fundamentally different gut microbiota communities and that the microbiota per se had such large effects on health,” said Bäckhed. Increased lard consumption promoted the growth of Bilophila, bacteria often linked to gut inflammation. In contrast, the fish oil diet increased the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila, bacteria known to reduce weight gain and improve glucose metabolism in mice. The bottom line is that eating a diet rich in fish oils is, as the study suggests, going to help you lose weight, compared to a diet rich in lard.