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By Brett SpiegelHuffington Post

The phrase “gut bacteria” might sound icky and repulsive, but modern science may have you soon thinking differently about the bugs that live in your intestinal system. Top researchers around the globe are exploring the bacteria that naturally reside in the bowels of both people and animals, and targeting them as potential missing links in preventing and treating conditions like obesity and diabetes. Check out these five recent discoveries about the amazing benefits of gut bugs:

Gut Bacteria, Obesity And Diabetes
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the gut bacterium A. muciniphila — the foremost bacteria in the gut’s nutrient-dense mucus layer — may be the key to developing new treatments against obesity and related metabolic disorders. Researchers found that A. muciniphila were at lower than normal levels in both obese mice and mice with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that the bacteria itself plays a critical role in these two common conditions. When researchers gave prebiotics to the at-risk mice, their levels of A. muciniphila increased, improving the functioning of the gut lining and resulting in a reversal of fat mass, inflammation and insulin resistance.


Jumping Rope, Disturbing Gut Hormones
A Japanese study, published in the February issue of Appetite, found that the up-and-down motion of certain exercises like jumping rope disrupted appetite-regulating hormones released by the gut. Exercise that involves vertical movement may curb hunger even more than other exercise, researchers said, since it causes greater gut disturbance, which may promote the appetite suppression that generally occurs with exercise.

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Researchers monitored appetite gut hormones and surveyed hunger rates of 15 men who, depending on the day, either jumped rope or rode a stationary bike. They found that 25 minutes into exercising, the men were less hungry and craved fatty foods less after jumping rope than after cycling. “Taken together, our results suggest that aerobic exercise, particularly rope-skipping exercise, may regulate the desire to eat fatty foods, and thus improve dietary behavior regarding fatty foods in adults,” the researchers told My Health News Daily.

Gut Bugs, Gender And Diabetes

Research published in January 2013 in Science highlighted an unlikely way to block the development of type 1 diabetes in female mice–exposing them to gut bacteria from the gastrointestinal tracts of male mice. “It was completely unexpected to find that the sex of an animal determines aspects of their gut microbe composition … and that the hormones in turn regulate an immune-mediated disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Jayne Danska, in a release from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres in Germany.

“Our findings suggest potential strategies for using normal gut bacteria to block progression of insulin-dependent diabetes in kids who have high genetic risk,” Danska added. The findings also suggested that exposure to normal GI tract bacteria early in life may protect against other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and even allergies and asthma.

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How Gut Bacteria Help Babies Grow

Norwegian researchers have uncovered a link between infant growth rates and specific types of bacteria that populate their newly formed digestive tracts. Their study, published in PLoS Computational Biology, involved analysis of stool samples from more than 200 babies and identifying certain points in time at which specific gut bacteria are associated with growth.

“After applying our new method, we found an indication that the composition of early life gut microbiota may be associated with how fast or slow babies grow in early life, although there is also the possibility that factors early in life affect both gut microbiota and how fast the baby grows,” the study authors explained.

Two-for-One Benefit Of Gastric Bypass

Researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital took gut bacteria from mice that had gastric bypass surgery and implanted it into other obese mice. The result: accelerated weight loss in the obese mice. The first important finding of the study, which was published in Science Translational Medicine, was that gastric bypass surgery altered the gut microbes of the first set of obese mice. The second was that the altered implanted microbes prompted rapid weight loss in the second group of obese mice.

“Our study suggests that the specific effects of gastric bypass on the microbiota contribute to its ability to cause weight loss and that finding ways to manipulate microbial populations to mimic those effects could become a valuable new tool to address obesity,” stated study coauthor Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at MGH and associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

This article was written by Brett Spiegel and published in Huffington Post on May 15, 2013. Photo by Mel VDL Photography/Flickr.

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