S u m m a r y :
Gut bacteria have a whole array of effects on the body, and two new scientific papers show that food choice and reproduction also bear the impacts therefrom.
Gut Bacteria & Its Many Effects
Gut bacteria, also known as gut microbiota, constitute the bacteria living in the alimentary canal of humans and animals, where they assist with the process of the digestion of food. They heavily impact on one’s body as an increasing body of research is showing: from digestion and nutrition to immunity and longevity. A new paper indicates that their effects might extend to one’s choice of food as well. Yet another link explored in another recent paper entails reproduction, and the possible effects on progeny.
1st Paper: Gut Microbiota & Food Choice
The research, conducted by scientists from the University of Sydney, and published in the journal Current Biology, focuses on the common fruit fly and their gut bacteria composition. The type of bacteria, and the timing at which the flies were exposed to them were varied to determine the preference of the insects for food nutrients and microbes.
The findings show that the flies would use their sense of smell to forage not only for nutrients that would constitute a balanced diet but also for bacteria that would boost their gut microbiota. They would do so by selecting particular bacteria in foods as per their smells: the flies appeared to have a taste for more beneficial bacteria, and for the foods containing them.
More research needs to be done to understand how other animals forage with respect to beneficial bacteria, says lead author Dr Adam Wong.
“We knew animals foraged for nutrients, in ways that optimise their performance and physiology,” says Dr Wong.
“Understanding they also forage for beneficial microbes opens up a whole new dimension for future research. The symbiotic relationship can shape how animals, including humans, may perceive and prefer different nutrients and microbes for better overall health.”
2nd Study: Gut Bacteria & Mating
Conducted by scientists from Macquarie University, the research focuses on the effects of different types of bacteria on fruit flies interacting with each other in a sexual manner. When flies were inoculated with several kinds of bacteria, it was found that different gut bacteria impacted on the reproductive investment of these insects. Furthermore, the success of the pair indulging in sexual acts was also determined partly by the bacterial composition of the gut.
These consequences are said to link the bacteria to both the process of reproduction, and the resulting offspring’s characteristics.
“Given the importance of the gut microbiota in physiology and health, our findings reveal important and long-lasting effects of gut bacteria on reproduction and offspring traits,” says lead author Dr Juliano Morimoto from Macquarie University.
“As understanding of the gut microbiome and its effect increases, the potential for breakthroughs in understanding broader health impacts increases too.”