Gut bacteria may be to blame for not sticking to your diet

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A study has found that microbes in the human digestive tract may have an influence on our food choices and behaviour.

It states that willpower may not be the problem for your eating habits as your gut bacteria may carry some responsibility too.

Researchers based at the University of California San Francisco, the University of New Mexico and Arizona State University have stated that different bacteria have various nutritional needs, dependent on the areas they occupy in our guts.

The director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer, Carlos Maley, said there are times when the bacteria’s needs are in line with our personal dietary goals, but there are also times when it is not.

The different microbes may have the ability to manipulate our dietary wishes by the release of molecules which influence our brain through the nerve which connects it to the stomach, and affects particular organ systems.

Senior author of the study from the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, Athena Aktipis, said microbes are able to change mood and behaviour by changing the vagus nerve’s neural signals. This changes our taste receptors, which produces toxins that make us feel bad and releases chemical rewards which make us feel good.

This system works both ways, but what is eaten by humans may affect what the food gut bacteria needs. In Japan, where seaweed is a part of their diet, special bacteria able to digest seaweed have been found in residents of the country. In one of the trials, people who were provided with a probiotic, Lactobacillus casei, saw an improvement in their mood.

The authors have stated that the understanding of the influence of microbes on human behaviour may lead to researchers finding methods to prevent unhealthy habits. They added that due to the easy manipulation of microbiota by probiotics, faecal transplants, dietary changes and prebiotics, changes to the microbiota may offer a solution to unhealthy eating and obesity.

Image Credit: Laura Lewis

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