Thursday, March 06, 2014

Exciting Gut Bacteria Finding

Researchers in the journal Cell Reports have discovered how the beneficial bacteria in our guts communicate with our own cells. This is a key step in understanding how our bodies maintain a close relationship with the population of gut bacteria that plays crucial roles in maintaining our health, fighting infection and digesting our food.

Gut bacteria produce an enzyme that modifies signalling in cells lining the gut. The enzyme also has another role in breaking down food components.

One example is phytate, the form phosphorus takes in cereals and vegetables. Broken down phytate is a source of vital nutrients, but in its undigested form it has detrimental properties. It binds to important minerals preventing them being taken up by the body, causing conditions like anemia, especially in developing countries. Phytate also leads to excess phosphorus leaching into the soil from farm animal waste, and feed supplements are used to minimize this.

Despite the importance of phytate, we know very little about how it is broken down in our gut. After screening the genomes of hundreds of different species of gut bacteria, the researchers found an enzyme in one of the most prominent gut bacteria species that breaks down phytate.

Steve: A lack of the beneficial bacteria that contain this enzyme may ultimately be one of the causes of a host of intestinal disorders that are caused by excess, undigested phytate. This is an exciting development because we have mentioned in the past that the issue with cereal grains is not just their gluten content, but other chemicals that can be toxic to humans, such as phytate. Cereal grains are much higher in phytates than vegetables.

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