Emerging research is giving new meaning to the adage “Listen to your gut.” Scientists are studying the trillions of bacteria in the digestive system to determine how they impact a person’s general wellness and risk for disease. To find out more about the link between gut bacteria and health, join the Sage Colleges and CDPHP® for a nutrition lecture on Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at Russell Sage College’s Schacht Fine Arts Center, 5 Division St., in Troy. To RSVP, contact Sara Carlson by email or phone at
Scientific evidence points to the fact that the bacteria in your gut – often referred to as gut flora – can have health effects that extend well beyond aiding digestion or helping to extract energy from the food you eat. Consider, for example, the following recent discoveries about the impact of gut bacteria on health and disease:
Research suggests that gut bacteria can play a role in building your body’s immunity to disease and infection. Essentially, the gut appears to act as your body’s gatekeeper, letting in helpful compounds and screening out harmful ones.
Recent scientific investigations indicate that people with certain diseases or conditions often have a different mix of intestinal bacteria than do those who are healthy, and scientists are taking a close look at the role of bacterial diversity in determining health. Thus far, the studies have not been able to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between gut bacteria and certain diseases, but they do suggest a strong link between the bacterial composition of the digestive system and the presence of certain diseases and conditions.
Scientists have found that gut bacteria may influence the brain and, in turn, affect behavior. Evidence of this link can be found in studies of mice whose normal intestinal flora was disrupted, resulting in changes in the animals’ brain chemistry and their level of anxiety and depression. Similar correlations between the composition of gut bacteria and behavioral health have been discovered in humans, including those with autism. This research raises the possibility that therapeutic regimens that restore normal gut bacteria may prove effective in treating some behavioral and mental disorders.
Recent research suggests that gut bacteria can also affect a person’s weight and may influence whether an infant develops colic. The studies showed that obese people had less diverse gut flora than those who were lean, and colicky babies and those who were obese had increased numbers of certain types of bacteria than did their normal counterparts.
Studies have shown that when gut bacteria break down certain foods, including beef and eggs, they produce a compound that may increase the risk of heart disease. Over a three-year period, those who had high blood levels of this compound were more than twice as likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or death than those with low levels of the compound. These findings lend credibility to existing dietary guidelines for promoting heart health, including avoidance of foods high in fat and cholesterol.
To find out more about this fascinating topic, be sure to attend the nutrition lecture at Russell Sage College on Monday March 2 at 7 p.m. Hope to see you there!
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