Researchers are only now beginning to realize the impact of gut microbes on health. Obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease and other health conditions have been linked to the type of bacteria and their impact on the human immune system. A new study published by the University of Texas at Austin in the Nature communication journal reveal a sex differentiation in the type of gut bacteria present. Diet affects men and women differently and impacts on composition and amount of bacteria that inhabit the human gut.
The researchers investigated the gut microbes in two species of fish and in mice, conducting an in-depth analysis of data from other studies collected on humans.
“Our study asks not just how diet influences the microbiome, but it splits the hosts into males and females and asks, do males show the same diet effects as females?” said Daniel Bolnick, professor in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences and lead author of the study.
“To guide people’s behavior, we need to know what microbes are desirable for people,” said Bolnick. “Diet and sex do interact to influence the microbes, but we don’t yet know what a desirable target for microbes is. Now we can go in with eyes open when we work on therapies for gut microbe problems, as many involve dietary changes. We can walk into those studies looking for something we weren’t aware of before. All along we treated diet as if it works the same for men and women. Now we’ll be approaching studies of therapies in a different way.”
Daniel I. Bolnick, Lisa K. Snowberg, Philipp E. Hirsch, Christian L. Lauber, Elin Org, Brian Parks, Aldons J. Lusis, Rob Knight, J. Gregory Caporaso, Richard Svanbäck. Individual diet has sex-dependent effects on vertebrate gut microbiota. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5500