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The wonderful world of the gut biota

I keep reading more and more about gut flora and how important they are to health; and this makes sense to me, because the gut is, as it were, the soil of the body, and soil is to important to my garden. No microbes, no soil! So here's a random chunk 'o' content from MedPage Today:

Numerous risk factors contribute to type 2 diabetes, including age, family history, diet, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. Now, emerging research is examining how gut microbiota may contribute to type 2 diabetes risk. Gut microbiota densely populate the digestive tract, playing a crucial role in the normal structure and development of a healthy mucosal immune system and affecting uptake of nutrients, regulation of metabolism, angiogenesis, and development of the enteric nervous system.1,2 Intestinal microflora are a healthy and beneficial asset, but some components can become a liability if they are associated with a genetic susceptibility to certain illnesses. In these circumstances, microflora can contribute to the pathogenesis of various intestinal disorders and have a systemic impact on inflammation, for example. ...

[S]maller studies have already shown that type 2 diabetes in humans is associated with a different composition of intestinal microbiota compared to nondiabetic persons, changes that are manifested primarily at the phylum and class level.4 One group of investigators studied the intestinal microbiota of 36 men with a range of body-mass indices (BMIs), half of whom had type 2 diabetes. Compared to the control group, fecal proportions of phylum Firmicutes and class Clostridia were significantly reduced among subjects with diabetes. Ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes and ratios of Bacteroides-Prevotella group to C coccoides-E rectale group were significantly and positively correlated with plasma glucose levels but not BMI. In addition, class Betaproteobacteria was highly enriched in diabetic compared to nondiabetic persons and positively correlated with plasma glucose.4

Advances like these have led to considerable anticipation among researchers about what is to come. “These are exciting times from a research perspective,” says Stanley L. Hazen, MD, PhD, a co-author on the L-carnitine study and chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine; section head, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation; and vice chair of translational research, Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “I never imagined 5 years ago there was a mechanistic link between gut microbes and both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.”

"Mechanistic," forsooth! Nothing about the body is mechanistic!

At least one study is underway to evaluate the use of probiotics to reduce endotoxin levels and inflammatory responses in patients with type 2 diabetes. The investigators hypothesize that prebiotics/probiotics will offer an additional intervention to treat these patients.

In light of findings that intestinal microbiota may differ between patient populations with different metabolic abnormalities, future research will need to find targeted therapeutic strategies for these different patient populations. “We are many steps closer to the next major advances in powerful new diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions for the prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic diseases,” says Dr. Hazen. “But it is still too early to turn this information into actionable changes in how we care for our patients.”

The other thing I like is the wordplay between "probiotic" and "antibiotic."

No doubt the worlds of nutrition and "alternative medicine" are heavily populated with charlatans, but that the gut biota really matters seems like an unchallengeable assumption. And given the horrible diet Big Food has implicated us in, I can't but think that our guts (pause to ponder metaphorical use of "guts") have been terribly affected in bad ways, as an entire culture, indeed as a civilization.* Imagine pouring, oh, Doctor Pepper on your tomato plants. How long do you think it would take them to shrivel up and die? (Hmm, rhetorical question, but nice project if I want to sacrifice some plants.**) If the answer is, "Oh, about an hour," then how come you're dumping that effluent onto your gut biota?

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

NOTE * When I first went to Bangkok five years ago, now, an obese Thai was a rarity. No longer. Krispy Kreme, McDonalds, KFC, packaged food-like products in 7-11...

NOTE ** Of course somebody's already done this because the Internet. Spoiler alert: "death."

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mellon's picture
Submitted by mellon on

To be honest with you I know very little about this specific study- But- Acetyl-l-carnitine is useful in dozens of conditions. I have no experience with L-carnitine but have seen lots of papers showing large benefits to cardiovascular health, so to be honest, it strikes me as suspicious when one or a few, even, studies from an "authoritative source" comes along and gets a huge amount of media coverage when decades of other studies with important positive findings get ignored. At the very least they should have explored ALC and PLC and shown what they did with gut bacteria..

To be honest with you lambert, the US mainstream press on medical issues is horrible.

Its increasingly politically motivated and biased towards the horrible insurance industry memes, which try to blame every other possible thing but themselves and the complexity they create..for the horrible state of US healthcare especially affordability- and now assertions in mainstream "trusted" newspapers and television shows seem to more and more often be wrong.

Its like was mentioned elsewhere where the healthcare industry is so big now that perhaps they don't want to hurt its profits by helping people be healthier.

For example, not a peep on obesogens..endocrine disrupting chemicals.. For more links on them see my last blog post.