Exercise belly bacteria

For a long while bacteria have had a bad name. They can cause damaging diseases to humans but they are also incredibly successful. Numerically and by biomass, bacteria are the most abundant organisms on Earth. They are also the most numerous cell type in and on the human body, outnumbering our body cells. In recent times we have become increasingly aware that some of the bacteria that share our body are not only good for us, they are essential for health. To build the right bacteria in your digestive tract you can eat fermented foods, you can even take probiotic supplements, and now there is evidence that a bit of exercise can help.

They key with bacteria in your gut is having a diversity of health promoting species present. Changes in the bacterial composition in your gut can contribute to problems like diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, and obesity to name a few. There are also links between disordered gut bacteria and behaviour disorders. While there is plenty of research showing the links between diet and good bacteria in the gut this new study is one of the first to look at the link to exercise.

The study involved assessing stool and blood samples from professional rugby players and comparing them to two other control groups. One group was matched to the rugby players for body mass index (BMI) while the other was matched for age but with lower BMI scores. Everyone in the study completed detailed food questionnaires and answered questions about their normal levels of physical activity.

The results showed that the rugby players had a much wider range of gut bacteria than the control groups and especially when compared to men with a higher BMI. Specifically, they also had much higher levels of a bacteria called Akkermansiaceae which is linked to lower levels of obesity. Dietary analysis revealed that rugby players ate more of all food groups than other people and that protein accounted for 22 per cent of their energy intake compared to 15-16 per cent in the control groups.

It may be that regular exercise leads to changes in diet that also contribute to changes in the bacterial diversity of the gut but this is just another reason to exercise your right to exercise.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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