Archive for September 2011
The human gut is home to thousands of different bacterial species, totaling 100 trillion bacterial cells—that’s about four pounds of bacteria, or the weight of a brick. The composition of this bacterial population (also known as the gut microbiota), is currently being studied.
A new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, published in Science, takes the findings further. This new study found two major gut types—Bacteroides and Prevotella—based on gut bacterial population groups in 98 healthy volunteers who were asked to fill out questionnaires that assessed dietary habits. Stool samples were collected to determine their gut microbiota composition.
The researchers found a link between dietary habits and gut types. People who ate a diet high in meat and saturated fat were higher in Bacteroides bacteria, and people who had a diet high in carbohydrates had more Prevotella bacteria. Researchers then took ten volunteers and fed half of them a diet high in fat and low in fiber, and fed the other half a low-fat, high-fiber diet. By the end of ten days, the bacterial populations had begun to change but were still predominantly the same Bacteroides and Prevotella groups. This indicates that it’s possible to change the gut microbiota with diet, but it will take more than a short-term change to see any major difference.
Next steps will be to replicate these findings to confirm them and to take the studies further by looking at whether these gut types are associated with health. It’s an exciting area of research, working out the details of what health advocates like ReNew Life founder Brenda Watson has said all along—your gut is the foundation of the health of the rest of your body. It all begins in the gut!
Belly fat is usually detectible—people generally have a good idea if they tend to accumulate fat in their midsection, as opposed to their hips and bottom. But how do you know if your liver is fat? Well, abdominal fat and liver fat often go hand in hand. In fact, fat from the liver can be sent to the belly, and vice versa. Often, an underlying feature of both of these is inflammation, which may come from the gut. Nutrients and other substances—including fat, toxins and inflammatory compounds—are absorbed from the small intestine and travel straight to the liver via the portal vein.
A recent study found that obese individuals with high amounts of abdominal fat and liver fat are at increased risk for heart disease. The researchers found that liver fat is strongly associated with increased secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which contain the highest amounts of triglycerides, known to increase heart disease risk.
It has long been known that abdominal fat can be dangerous. The increasing knowledge about the dangers of liver fat adds to the story, as these two go hand in hand, each setting the body up to be more susceptible to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Together, belly and liver fat mean trouble.
Both liver and abdominal fat can be reduced with exercise and weight loss. These steps, in addition to addressing any underlying gut dysfunction that may be contributing inflammation to the liver, can help reverse these metabolic precursors to heart disease. Gut imbalance may be addressed by taking probiotics, the beneficial bacteria naturally found in the gut.