Science Catch-up. Gut Microbes Caught Enjoying Exercise.

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

Welcome to our Thursday 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. Gut microbes caught enjoying exercise

2. Food for mood

3. Bigger wine glasses, heavier drinking?


Gut microbes caught enjoying exercise

Study link

The gut microbiome is a topic that truly fascinates me…

We have trillions of bacteria with unique sets of genes sitting in our guts. And it appears that anything we do affects the composition of our microbiome, with exercise being no exception.

For instance, a new study in 32 lean and obese participants revealed that high-intensity exercise for 6 weeks affected the microbiome, independent to changes in the person’s diet.

Changes in the concentrations of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and propionate before and after the 6-week exercise programme in lean and obese participants (Allen et al., 2017).


The researchers revealed that only the gut bacteria in lean individuals responded to the exercise trial by producing greater quantities of short-chain fatty acids, but this effect disappeared after the exercise training was discontinued.

These findings are important as short-chain fatty acids have been previously shown to exert a wide-range of beneficial actions in the body, including immune regulation and inflammation reduction.

It seems that our gut bacteria are spectators that respond positively when they watch their host athletically performing, but they will stop sharing these benefits when the individual returns to being sedentary…

So, make sure you consistently pick up your trainers and build some trust with your microbiome.

If you’d like to learn more about how our genes and gut microbiome may alter our weight, check out our Science Report: Are Your Genes, Gut Microbiome and Weight Connected?


Food for mood

Study link

How nutrition affects our mental health is still a relatively new area of research.

We already know that dietary nutrients contain precursors to important mood regulators, such as dopamine. This means that what we eat can have an impact on their levels.

In this exciting study, 500 participants completed a survey on their dietary intake plus mental wellbeing.

Diagram showing relationship between factors influencing mental distress in younger and older adults (Begdache et al., 2017).

As suspected, their diet appeared to influence their mood.

The major finding of the research was that mood in younger adults appears to be dependent on foods that increase availability of neurotransmitter precursors, such as dopamine’s from poultry.

In contrast, the mood in adults was more dependent on foods that increase antioxidant status, and refraining from eating foods that inappropriately activate the sympathetic nervous system, such as high-glycaemic foods.

So the big question is, why does the influence of diet on mental health vary with age?

It’s hypothesised that brain maturation halts after the age of 30, meaning that younger adults may have different emotional controls that are determined by morphological changes.

This study was particularly interesting as it raises the concept that dietary adjustments may be needed at different stages of life to improve mental wellbeing.

If you found this interesting, you’ll want to dive into the neuroscience of food choices by downloading our Science Report: How Does Your Brain Make Food Decisions?


Bigger wine glasses, heavier drinking?

Study link

Scientists in Cambridge analysed the size of wine glasses for sale in England since the beginning of the 18th century.

They discovered that the capacity of glasses gradually increased over time… until they began to experience an exponential growth in the early 1990s.

The average wine glass in 1700 held just 66ml, whereas now this size has increased seven-fold to a monstrous 449ml!

This line graph illustrates how the capacity (millilitres) of wine glasses has increased from 1700 to the present day (Zupan et al., 2017).

Simultaneously with the growth in glass capacity, the amount of wine being drunk has also risen considerably over the past 50 years.

As a result, many media outlets have rapidly jumped to form the connection that bigger glasses equate to over-drinking.

While the study didn’t assess wine consumption (just glass size!), it’d be interesting to see how glass capacity may influence alcohol drinking and whether we should be using a smaller glass.

Wondering what else our dishes may affect? Find out if the plate we serve our food on can alter its taste by downloading our Science Report: Can Plate Colour Help You Eat Healthier?





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The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right Alejandra "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 their students. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL doctoral 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.

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  • Sunita

    Reply Reply February 22, 2018

    Loving this, thanks Alex!!!

  • mike

    Reply Reply February 22, 2018

    The microbes enjoying exercise is eye opening*!!

    When I go sedentary during Xmas holidays I feel the difference for sure!

    KEep up the great work :D

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