Science Catch-up. Microbes caught “speaking” to gut genes!

Davison et al, 2017

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Welcome to our Thursday’s Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. Microbes caught “speaking” to gut genes!

2. Oats: safe or unsafe for the “gluten sensitive”?

3. Polyphenols up, body weight down…

4. Is this the “wrong” Omega 3 supplement?

5. Do you know your “omentum”?

6. Psst, can you taste water?

 

Microbes caught “speaking” to gut genes!

Study link

Davison et al, 2017

Several of the genes affected are associated with Crohn’s disease (iCD and cCD)) and ulcerative colitis (UC) (Davison et al, 2017)

The amount of new research I’m seeing about the human microbiome is enormous…

This field of investigation is actually at its infancy, with some scientists starting using the term “microbiomics” just a few months ago.

Today we know that these microorganisms cover almost every surface of our bodies, tissues, and organs…

Microbes form part of your immune system, they help to regulate your metabolism, and they can even influence your mood and hunger levels!

The question is… how?

One way in which they accomplish this is through affecting our own genetics. Yup, you’ve read that right…

In fact, researchers from Duke University discovered a new way through which microbes actually manipulate genetic expression.

In their study, they observed how bacteria can control the molecular machinery of their host’s cells in order to switch genes on or off… or even dim them.

But before we celebrate this discovery, it can be both good and bad news…

It’s good when those patterns triggered are beneficial to health, and it’s bad when they increase disease risk.

For example, when inflammatory pathways are unnecessarily activated, it could have undesirable implications for bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis…

Note: There are a multitude of factors that influence the composition of your good and bad gut bacteria, but the key resides in maintaining the “right” balance. If you want to learn how such balance can be achieved, then our GI Restoration series is for you. You can get Part 1 here (optional resource).

 

Oats: safe or unsafe for the “gluten sensitive”?

Study link

Do you have coeliac disease or a severe gluten sensitivity?

Then you probably already know that should avoid a type of protein called “gluten”, which is present in grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

But what about oats?

Are they safe or unsafe for coeliacs?

Generally, oats are considered safe… The problem is that oatmeal may be cross-contaminated with wheat in the factory.

Also, some coeliac patients may be sensitive to avenin, a type of protein found in oats…

However, according to this new systematic review, which analysed 28 studies, adding oats to a gluten-free diet did not have adverse effects in individuals with coeliac disease.

Pinto-Sánchez et al., 2017

Oats were found to be generally safe for coeliacs across all 26 studies (Pinto-Sánchez et al., 2017)

Note: Gluten sensitivity affects up to 13% of the population… But how can you tell if you’re gluten sensitive or not? At The Health Sciences Academy, we investigated the science and developed a diagnostic framework, so you’ll know exactly what to test for in order to find out. So if you want to learn whether you have a gluten sensitivity, you can get our step-by-step procedure here: How Is Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity Diagnosed? (optional resource).

 

Polyphenols up, body weight down…

Study link

Ever heard of polyphenols?

They’re a group of phytochemical compounds found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, herbal teas, coffee, chocolate, olives, herbs, and spices…

Guo et al., 2017

High intake of polyphenols is correlated with a lower body weight. Intake and urinary biomarkers were measured  (Guo et al., 2017)

They come in all colours and forms, and there are thousands of scientific studies showing how these bioactive compounds are able to switch your genes on or off for better health – from tumour-cell growth suppression, to intellectual enhancement.

But what not many people know is that polyphenols also play a role in reducing weight-gain risk…

For example, this observational study, which involved 573 participants followed for 5 years, found that a high intake of polyphenols from the diet was associated with a lower body weight, lower body mass, and lower waist circumference.

Note: If you want to learn how the foods you eat may affect your genes, take a look at our Science Report “From Food to DNA” – you can get it here (optional resource).

 

Is this the “wrong” Omega 3 supplement?

Study link

Did you know that Omega 3 comes in many different types and forms?

For example, ALA is a plant form of Omega 3 (found in flaxseeds, for example). While EPA and DHA are types of Omega 3 found in animal sources such as oily fish, eggs, and dairy.

Because your body cannot use ALA, first it has to convert it into EPA and DHA. In fact, the direct health benefits you often hear about Omega 3 are related to EPA and DHA, and not ALA.

But here’s the problem:

That conversion from ALA into EPA and DHA inside the human body is not quite effective…

For that reason, a group of German scientists wanted to check if an ALA supplement increased EPA and DHA levels… or not.

Knowing this is important, because DHA is critical for intellectual performance, a healthy heart, and even the repairing of your gut lining.

So, what did the scientists find?

Burak et al., 2017

DHA levels did not increase after ALA supplementation for 8 weeks (Burak et al., 2017)

Taking ALA supplements for 8 weeks increased EPA levels by 26-37%, but DHA levels didn’t increase…

This means that a direct EPA/DHA supplement might be more effective than ALA. Several previous studies showed similar findings.

A little warning, EPA/DHA supplements are often made from fish oil, so make sure the label reads “mercury/dioxin free”.

Note: Are you vegan? We’ve investigated the common nutrients that vegans often lack, including DHA. So if you want to prevent vegan deficiency risks, then this Science Report will show you how and you can get it here (optional resource). Yes, there’s always room for becoming a better vegan!

 

Do you know your “omentum”?

Review link

Meza-Perez and Randall, 2017

Your omentum has tiny filters called milky spots, which collect pathogens and release inflammatory molecules (Meza-Perez and Randall, 2017)

No, it’s not a typo…

It’s an actual organ in your body!

What kind of organ is that, you may wonder?

Omentum is the name we give to that “apron of fat” that protects your abdomen… whether you have a “six pack” or not!

It may sound quirky, but this large sheet of fat stretches over your intestines, liver, and stomach like an elastic apron, and even plays a metabolic role.

We’re still learning about how it works, but for now we do know that it secretes hormones related to obesity…

On the other hand, in this new scientific review, researchers discuss how the omentum is actually an important immune organ.

While its size varies from person to person, its immune functions come from little filters (named “milky spots”) between the fat cells…

Apparently, these little filters collect information about the health of your abdominal cavity by channelling circulating fluids.

This way, the little filters collect cells, antigens, and bacteria, and then decide how to respond immunologically – for example, by releasing inflammatory molecules that protect you from pathogens and particulates.

In essence, that abdominal fat is not as “useless” as you may have thought it to be!

So I’m glad you’re now familiar with your omentum, because we’ll be talking more about it as new discoveries in relation to nutrition come through.

 

Psst, can you taste water?

Study link

Zocchi et al., 2017

Sour-tasting cells on mammalian tongue can detect water (Zocchi et al., 2017)

I remember when my school teacher told us that water is “tasteless” or “insipid”…

Did you learn that too? Well, it’s time to un-learn it…

As it appears, water can be tasted!

In fact, certain taste cells in our tongue are designed to detect and taste water…

This new study found that it’s our sour-tasting cells which help us to savour water.

Not bad for this transparent, colourless, odourless, liquid substance!

 

 

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The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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7 Comments

  • Betiana

    Reply Reply June 7, 2017

    Alex thank you!
    I’m blown away– there’s much to learn for me still!

    I didn’t know we have omentums fascinating

  • Steve

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    Thanks Alex!
    The “Tasteless water” got my attention.

    • Yoel

      Reply Reply June 8, 2017

      Mine too Steve!

      some of my friends would swear they can taste it and I never believe them, now I do!

      great stuff Alex!

  • sam Baichoo

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    The emerging knowledge of omentum would probably have an impact on too extensive physical excercise

  • Derek Lane

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    Excellent information as always especially the Omega 3 article as I am working through my Advanced Exercise and Sporrs Nutrition

  • Brett Snow

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    What struck me as interesting was the omega 3’s. I am looking forward to reading it, as my youngest son has ADHD and I am trying to help manage it with omega 3’s and a reduced glycemic index.

    Thanks.

  • Tom

    Reply Reply June 9, 2017

    this is really cool stuff, thanks for the updates, I didn’t know about the omega 3s either!! still loads to learn!

    you are mega Alex!

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