When it comes to choosing a dietary supplement to support gut health, perhaps the most important consideration is choosing a supplement that provides multiple strains of bacteria.
And this point is being driven home by a new study from an international team of researchers and published October 3, 2019 in Nature Communications.
“The gut microbial community has been linked to many diseases—from metabolic to neurological. Fortunately, we can manipulate our gut microbial composition through diet, lifestyle, taking prebiotics and probiotics, and even through faecal transplants,” says study researcher Mario Flachi, senior lecturer of Bioinformatics at King’s College London.
“Our research suggests that future treatments to improve human health should focus of targeting microbial teams and their functions, rather than single microbial species.”
The human gut is home to trillions of microbes that form a complex community referred to as the gut microbiota. The metabolic activity of the gut microbiota is essential in maintaining the homoeostasis and health of the body.
Much research has focused on observing the benefits of a single bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus, for example, is a single strain that is probably the most recognized by probiotic consumers. It is often purchased as a stand-alone probiotic supplement. However, the researchers in this study set out to find if “microbial teamwork” is more important than a single species working alone.
The researchers studied a thousand twins from the UK’s largest adult twin registry and the most clinically detailed in the world TwinsUK cohort.
The study team was made up of researchers from: The Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, in the UK; Human Longevity Inc, San Diego; Metabolon Inc., Morrisville; and Immunology & Inflammation, Cluster of Precision Immunology, in the USA.
The researchers compared how people differ in their gut microbial species, and how they differ in terms of functions carried out by diverse strains of bacteria (microbial teams).
The team then measured hundreds of molecules in the gut and in the bloodstream, which would represent microbial metabolism. By doing this the researchers were able to check if the abundance of molecules was more strongly linked to the presence of particular microbial species or the microbial functions performed by microbial teams.
The results were clear: Microbial functions carried out by microbial teams showed an eight-fold increase of association over individual species.
“An extensive dialogue goes on between the gut environment and our blood, and this explains why gut microbes are so strongly linked to our health. We estimate that 93% of this dialog involves microbial functions,” said Falchi.
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Primary source for article: Nature Communications.