You exercise for heart health, lean muscle strengthening, fat loss and happy hormones. Now it turns out that all those workouts may also benefit your gut bacteria – a diverse ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestines and help keep your digestive system running smoothly.
A recent novel study from University College Cork demonstrates that it isn’t just what you put into your body as fuel – exercise may also have an effect on gut bacteria, reported the Huffington Post.
The study, published online in the journal Gut, found that professional athletes had better gut bacteria diversity than average people. A healthy and varied gut bacteria ecosystem has been linked to everything from low obesity rates to fewer symptoms of mental disorders like ADHD and anxiety, while non-diverse guts are associated with inflammation and markers of metabolic syndrome such as weight gain and insulin resistance.
Researchers, led by physician-scientist Fergus Shanahan, studied the blood and faecal matter of 40 professional rugby players who were rigorously training at the time. Then they compared those samples to the blood and faecal matter of a control group made up of 46 healthy men who were not athletes, but who roughly matched the rugby players’ size and age.
It’s no surprise that the athletes were in better shape than the control group but they were also metabolically healthier than the high-BMI portion of the control group, and they also had lower inflammation than both groups, despite having more of an enzyme that indicates muscle damage (due to their training schedule).
But the research team also found that the rugby players had much more diverse microbiota than both control groups, and they especially had a lot more of the bacteria species Akkermansiaceae, which is associated with lower rates of obesity and metabolic diseases.
Analysis of the microbiota revealed correlations between bacteria and exercise levels, as well as bacteria and protein consumption. But the separate effects of exercise and protein consumption still need to be worked out, said Shanahan in an email to Huffington Post.
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