2014 Science Retrospective Gut Bacteria

2014 Science Retrospective Gut Bacteria

Science Retrospective Gut Bacteria Edition

We continue a look back on what advances and breakthroughs took place in science in the previous year in our 2014 science retrospective. Here in part two the title is science retrospective gut bacteria. We’ll explore what happened in the microbiome this past year. This is a field with many exciting discoveries this year everything from influencing behavior to influencing the future life of our children.

2014 Science Retrospective Gut Bacteria

Back in August new research were presented that suggested a link between what type of food we eat and the types of gut bacteria residing in our intestines. The study found that bacteria influence our diet by making us eat what makes them grow best. Makes you think about what free will really is, huh ? At that time no mechanism was proposed to explain this phenomenon, though bacteria acting through the hormonal system was suggested. This leads us to another news item.

In September researchers announced that gut bacteria could potentially lower breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Having more diverse forms of gut bacteria could significantly lower the risk of developing breast cancer. How does this happen exactly? This is where the hormonal system comes in. A more diverse gut bacteria removes estrogen and estrogen breakdown products from the blood leading to the lower risk of breast cancer. So controlling us as puppets isn’t only a downside since they also prevent cancer, but what if we removed them?

If bacteria can have bad effects on our diet isn’t it possible to just remove them altogether and get around the problems? Well that as I reported in August will just cause more problems. When antibiotics are given to mice to knock out natural bacterial flora they become fat. You don’t even have to give those mice antibiotics directly, giving it to their mother actually effected the pups. Giving bacteria-killing drugs also changed their immune system weakening it reducing the numbers of immune cells. In short avoid antibiotics early in life they’re bad news! This isn’t the only way to change your gut bacteria, unfortunately. Regular artificial sweeteners can change it too, to the worse…

In September a Nature article revealed that gut bacteria is changeable by simply choosing a more “healthy” alternative. Giving mice artificial sweeteners can change their bacterial make-up resulting in poor blood sugar control that can cause type two diabetes in the end. Though researchers found this effect to a milder degree in two sweeteners used in light products like sodas the real meat here was saccharin. It doesn’t break down in the digestive tract and is unaltered down to the intestines. Here it changes the gut bacteria resulting in poor blood glucose regulation. Simply stay away from saccharin if possible! There are other ways to get skinny as the next news item will show.

In November a new twin study found a link between a family of bacteria and the ability to stay thin. This bacterial family with the short and snappy name Christensenellaceae. People having this family of bacteria didn’t gain as much weight as people lacking it and were less prone to obesity. Will we all eat yogurts with this bacteria in the future to avoid obesity? Time will tell…

This was some of the many studies in our 2014 science retrospective gut bacteria edition. This area will be exciting to follow in 2015, will probiotics with new types of bacteria become available for sale because of these advances?

Image Credit: NIAID via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0