Research Blog

Diet and Exercise Affect Who Lives in Your Gut

gut bacteria

Diet and exercise can change the composition of bacteria living in one’s gut. 

The gut harbors the greatest density of microorganisms in the human body. Genetic analysis of microbes living in the gut has revealed a surprising amount of diversity within and between species. A number of lifestyle and health factors play a role in determining the microbe composition in the gut. For example, research has shown that obese people generally have a greater composition of energy utilizing and fat storing microbes in their gut. Increasing public awareness of the effects gut microbes have on our health has led to a market hungry for probiotic foods. Two studies released in June 2014 illustrate the capacity for diet and exercise to shape the gut’s micro biome.

One of the two aforementioned studies looked at how exercise alters the gut microbe profile in obese, non-obese and hypertensive rats (Exercise induction of gut microbiota modifications in obese, non-obese and hypertensive rats, 2014. Petriz, et al.).  In this study, the obese, non-obese and hypertensive rats were found to have different gut microbe variations. Five weeks of treadmill training was found to change the bacterial genera in each of the obese, non-obese and hypertensive groups from before to after the exercise intervention. This was determined by measuring bacterial labels on the RNA of the gut bacteria. So this demonstrates that exercise can impact who lives in the gut of different types of rats, but what about humans?

The second study released in June of 2014 looked specifically at how lifestyle impacts the gut bacteria composition in humans (Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact gut microbial diversity, 2014. Clarke SF, et al.). This study looked at the gut bacteria of international rugby players compared to sedentary controls. Gut bacteria were found to be more diverse in the rugby athletes. However, diet also played a major role in dictating the diversity of the gut microbiota suggesting that the relationship is complex.

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