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Western Lifestyle Associated With Low Gut Bacteria Diversity

High diversity of gut bacteria has been linked with improved metabolism, a strong immune system and an lower risk of obesity. A recent study suggests that the modern Western diet and lifestyle may be contributing to a lower diversity of bacteria in the gut.

For their study, researchers compared the fecal bacteria of people in the United States to that of people in Papua New Guinea, one of the least industrialized and urbanized nations in the world. They found that the Papa New Guineans had higher bacterial diversity, lower inter-individual variation, different abundance profiles, as well as bacterial lineages that weren’t found in US residents. In fact, the US residents were missing 50 bacterial types that the Papua New Guineans had.

The researchers suggested that diet, sanitation, and clinical practices such as antibiotic use could contribute to the lower gut diversity of the US residents. They also hypothesized that the lack of gut microbe diversity in the US population could contribute to rises in non-communicable chronic diseases that are occurring more frequently now in industrialized countries.

They also noted that, despite the lower diversity of gut bacteria, lifespan and quality of life are still higher in western countries when compared with non-westernized countries. They emphasized the importance of finding ways to reduce the damage to gut bacteria caused by modern lifestyles without jeopardizing the benefits.

Researchers from the University of Alberta’s Department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science conducted the study. It was published in the April 2015 issue of Cell.

Having a varied composition of bacteria in your digestive system is essential for good gut health and for good health overall. If you’re looking to improve gut bacteria diversity, consider taking a prebiotic or probiotic supplement. A recent study also found that exercise may help boost gut bacteria diversity.
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