Our gut bacteria balance is integral to our maintaining health. They add over 3,000,000 genes to our human 23,000. They are essential for forming normal digestion, B vitamins, hormones and signaling chemicals for nerves which are called neurotransmitters. UCSF scientist, Dr. Turnbaugh who published in Cell Host and Microbe, showed our gut bacteria can influence many aspects of our health and are determined more by our diet than our genes. Bacterial make up has been linked to plaque production in our vessels, mood disorders, weight gain and neurological disorders to name a few. This research looked at the age old question of nature vs nurture in determining this makeup for individuals.
With this mice study, they saw that regardless of genes, high fat and high sugar diet changed the make up towards more members of the phylum of Firmicutes and decreased number of Bacteroidetes phylum. In past studies, research has shown that certain diets like the typical western diet high in fats and refined sugar resulting in obesity show an increase in Firmicutes. These bacteria’s have been shown to have genetic difference than the Bacteroidetes in metabolism of simple sugars which scientists believe is related to the weight gain and obesity in the person. Other studies have shown that our gut bacteria can impact directly on inflammation pathways and insulin resistence in addition to affecting fat stores. Plant based diets show a more favorable effect on metabolism through bacteria make up than traditional western diets.
Why is this important? This is more evidence that we can affect our genes by our choices of lifestyle and our diets. Research is showing that we are in control of our future health instead of the old dogma that our genes determine our fate.