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Exercise for a Better Microbiome

Exercise could boost the diversity of the microbes in your gut, and eating a lot of protein might help, as well. A diverse “microbiome,” as this population of microbes is called, is necessary for optimal functioning of our immune systems, and supports overall health. By examining blood and stool samples, researchers in Ireland were able to compare the microbial diversity of professional rugby players with those of healthy men, some of normal weight and some overweight. They found that the athletes, overall, had greater gut diversity than the other men, which they attributed to the players’ strenuous exercise and diets that were higher in protein (22 percent of calories) compared to 15 to 16 percent of calories from protein the other men consumed daily. The athletes’ microbiomes were not only more diverse, the researchers reported that they were more populous than those of the other men in the study, and included higher levels of a species of bacteria associated with lower rates of obesity and obesity-related disorders. Whether exercise or protein or both were responsible for the diversity of the rugby players’ microbiomes remains to be confirmed by future studies, but this investigation certainly showed an intriguing association.

Siobhan Clark and Orla O’Sullivan, et al, “Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity,” Gut, doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306541