Your gut can tell you a lot about yourself, from the types of foods you crave to how often you use the bathroom. It can even help to explain the kind of mood you’re currently in—gut bacteria produce about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes mood. But did you know it may also determine your risk of developing chronic disease later in life?
According to new research published in the journal Nature Medicine, an international team of scientists unveiled associations between particular bacterial species and certain metabolic risk factors for several chronic conditions. This includes diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Evidently, certain gut microbiota—the term used to describe a community of microorganisms that reside in the intestines—demonstrated a stronger association with a person’s risk of various conditions than their own genetics. (Related: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work).
This discovery also suggests that it could be possible for someone to manipulate their gut bacteria through diet to optimize their health. For example, to no surprise, those who ate a diet rich in plant-based foods and lean animal protein such as oily fish (think salmon) had higher levels of good gut bacteria. Some of the gut bacteria, more technically called microbes, that the scientists analyzed are completely new to science and don’t even have names yet.
“Given the highly personalized composition of each individual[‘s] microbiome, our research suggests that we may be able to modify our gut microbiome to optimize our health by choosing the best foods for our unique biology,” Dr. Sarah Berry, a senior lecturer in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London in the United Kingdom and one of the study’s authors, told Medical News Today.
After analyzing the dietary habits of nearly 1,100 individuals that participated in the study, the scientists found links between the overall composition of the microbiota and a wide variety of biomarkers associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even impaired glucose metabolism (which is indicative of diabetes).
However, it’s important to note that this is an observational study, meaning that changes in microbiota could also be caused by poor health, as opposed to the other way round, which is what this study is proposing.
Still, this is a great incentive diversify your diet and ultimately, allow good gut bacteria to flourish. After all, cutting processed foods and adding in more fruits and vegetables can’t do any harm, right?
For more, be sure to check out 12 Warning Signs You Have Poor Gut Health.