Can Your Gut Bacteria Help You Gain Muscle Strength?
In recent years, we've learned that the microbiome—aka the community of bacteria living in our digestive tract—influences our well-being in myriad ways. Our weight, metabolism, mood, and blood sugar levels are just a few (of the many!) aspects of our health that have been directly linked to our gut bacteria.
And according to a new study, the strength of our muscles is no exception. In fact, the research, from Tufts University, suggests that the health of our microbiome may be the difference between us having muscle strength or not.
To find out exactly how this connection works, the researchers compared the gut bacteria from 18 older adults who had "high-physical function and favorable body composition" with 11 older adults with "low-physical function and less favorable body composition." The findings, published in Experimental Gerontology, showed that the bacterial profiles of the two groups were significantly different. For example, the group with favorable body composition had higher levels of Prevotellaceae, Prevotella, Barnesiella, and Barnesiella intestinihominis bacteria.
In the next portion of the study, the authors inoculated mice with bacteria taken from the two distinct human groups and observed how the mice's metabolic and physical profiles changed as a result. Interestingly, the mice whose guts were colonized with the bacteria from the "favorable body composition" group displayed an increase in grip strength, which is a common measure of muscle strength.
Based on those results, "we now start to understand the role of gut bacteria in the maintenance of muscle strength in older adults," said Michael Lustgarten, one of the study's main authors. "For example, if we were to conduct an intervention to increase Prevotella levels in the gut microbiome, we would expect to see an increase in muscle strength if these bacteria are involved," he continued.
This could have implications not only for gym-goers and athletes but also for the aging population. As Roger Fielding, one of the study's other authors, explained, "As we age, body composition, muscle strength, and lean mass all decrease... Identifying differences in bacteria present in the high-functioning and low-functioning groups in this study moves us toward a fuller understanding of both the gut microbiome and healthy aging."
This study was small, so there's still a lot more to learn about the details of the connection between muscle strength and the microbiome. In the meantime, we can all work to support the general health of our gut microbiome by eating foods high in prebiotic fiber and, of course, taking a probiotic supplement.
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