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The Irish Rugby Team Has Exceptional Guts

Gut bacteria

Gut bacteria E. coli, one of the many bacteria present in the human gut. Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH.

According to the new study published in the latest edition of the journal Gut, scientists have found that professional rugby players do have very diverse gut microbiomes in comparison of ordinary people of the same size, but seldom engage in exercises. As the authors wrote in their paper, it was the first time to confirm that exercise can enhance gut microbial diversity in humans.

In their tests, the researchers took blood and fecal samples from 40 rugby players to compare with the same number of ordinary people who had a similar BMI (body mass index). To their surprise, these rugby players had remarkably higher proportions of 40 taxa (or taxonomic groups of microbes) than those with lower BMI and little activity. Furthermore, it was also found that the athletes did have a higher proportion of Akkermansiaceae, a bacterium that was closely linked with lower rates of obesity as well as metabolic diseases.

It is generally accepted that a more diverse gut microbiota is fundamentally necessary to the overall health, which is closely associated with higher resistance to illness and lower risk of obesity. But a low diversity of gut microbes would lead to  obesity and to a diet with high content of fat and sugar in comparison of one that is low in fat and plant-based.

Up to now, the scientists are not sure about the way in which extreme exercise and a high protein diet generate such diversity. However they are making every effort to know the actual reason in this regard and then apply their research results for treatment of G.I. problems linked with lower diversity. Clostridium difficile is regarded as one of such diseases causing terrible diarrhea.

Journal reference: Clarke, Siobhan F., et al. “Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity.” Gut (2014): gutjnl-2013.