Bacteria in the human gut influence food cravings, diseases and moods, according to a review of current scientific evidence published in BioEssays. In a press release, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico stated that “microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on.” The researchers focused mainly on evidence that gut bacteria can influence food choices and physical diseases, but also cited studies showing impacts on moods such as irritability and anxiety.
“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said co-author Carlo Maley in the press release. “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.” In their abstract, the researchers identified that microbes can influence us through such mechanisms as the “production of toxins that alter mood, changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of the vagus nerve, the neural axis between the gut and the brain.”
The researchers also noted that there were many known strategies for deliberately altering one’s own inner bacterial make-up, including changing diet, fecal transplants, and taking probiotics or antibiotics, and encouraged more study in the field.
A coincidental study published in Cell found that exposure to antibiotics in infancy “permanently reprograms the body’s metabolism” due to the impacts on gut bacteria.
Do Gut Bacteria Rule Our Minds? (University of California Press Release on Newswise, August 15, 2014)
Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms (Alcock, Joe et al. BioEssays. Published online ahead of print August 7, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400071)
Early Antibiotic Exposure Leads to Lifelong Metabolic Disturbances in Mice (NYU Langone Medical Center Press Release on Newswise, August 15, 2014)