Better athletes boast particular bacteria in their microbiome

The strongest athletes boast, according to new interesting research appeared in Nature Medicine, a different microbiome with bacteria that would help in the abilities concerning physical exercise.

Aleksandar D. Kostic, one of the authors of the research, already envisions a future probiotic supplement that people could take to increase their physical abilities but also to protect themselves from chronic diseases connected precisely to the lack or insufficient level of physical activity, such as diabetes.

The researchers found in particular that the bacteria of the genus Veillonella appear to be less in sedentary people. According to researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center, who carried out the discovery, this bacterium has the role of metabolizing the lactic acid produced by the exercise to convert it into a short-chain fatty acid called propionate. The latter in turn is used by the body to improve exercise capacity even more.

The researchers started this study in 2015 when they began analyzing the faeces of the Boston marathon participants. At the same time, they analyzed stool samples taken from sedentary individuals. By comparing the faecal microbiomes of both categories of people, the researchers noticed that there were distinct differences that mainly concerned Veillonella.

The latter was more abundant in athletes, even more immediately after the marathon. Subsequent analysis carried out on mice in the laboratory led the same researchers to link the presence of this bacterium to a marked improvement in running ability and in general of movement. They also discovered that this bacterium is the only one, considering all the microbiomes present in the human body, to use lactic acid as a source of nutrition. Consequently, when the latter is produced to a greater extent, these bacteria multiply in parallel to a greater extent.

The presence of these bacteria could therefore be seen as a result of physical exertion but the researchers found that it was the creation of propionate by these bacteria that created the “advantage,” not the removal of lactic acid per se. In fact, they performed experiments on mice by injecting the propionate into the latter, finding an increase in motor skills.

According to Jonathan Scheiman, one of the authors of the study, it would be a “positive feedback cycle” according to which the body produces something that this microbe favors and in return this microbe benefits the body that hosts it.