(NaturalNews) Researchers have long known that the "good" bacteria in the human gut help digest food and keep "bad" pathogens, including an overgrowth of yeast, in check. But could beneficial bacteria be doing even more to build good health? The surprising answer is, most likely, yes.
According to findings just published in the American Society for Microbiology's online journal, mBio, "good" bacteria also appear to exert some level of control over the actual functions of organs, including the liver.
This research offers new evidence about the symbiotic and crucial relationship between the body and gut microbes -- and how changing the internal microbe environment, known as the microbiota, can impact health.
"The gut microbiota enhances the host's metabolic capacity for processing nutrients and drugs and modulates the activities of multiple pathways in a variety of organ systems," Sandrine Claus of the Imperial College of London said in a statement to the media.
For the new study, Claus and her research team exposed germ-free mice to bedding that had previously been used by other mice whose bodies contained normal microbiota. Then the initially germ-free mice were followed 20 days to as they became colonized with gut bacteria to check for changes in their metabolism.
During the first five days after exposure to normal gut bacteria, the mice experienced a rapid increase in weight (about 4 percent). Colonization with "good" bacteria also triggered several processes in the liver involving the conversion of sugars (glucose) to starch (glycogen) and fat (triglycerides) for short-term and long-term energy storage. The gut colonization also strongly stimulated the expression and activity of an essential enzyme called cytochrome P450 3A11 that's crucial to the body's drug-detoxification pathways.
"Here we describe the first evidence of an in vivo association between a family of bacteria and hepatic lipid metabolism. These results provide new insights into the fundamental mechanisms that regulate host-gut microbiota interactions and are of wide interest to microbiological, nutrition, metabolic, systems biology and pharmaceutical research communities," Claus concluded.