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Why are elite athletes different? Take a look at their microbes



E little athletes are really different from you and me. Or at least their intestinal microbes.

Researchers who analyzed stool samples of 15 runners a week before and after they competed in the Boston Marathon 2015 found unusually high levels of a particular microbe compared to 10 non-athletes. Levels of the particular microbe, Veillonella, nailed after an intense workout and flourished even more after the marathon.

It was a light bulb moment for the researchers because the bacterium is known to break down and eat lactate, a metabolite, even common runners is similar to fatigue .

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Veillonella acts as a "metabolic zinc" for lactate, the researchers suspect to turn into fuel the by-product of hard-working muscles runners blamed for their painful legs in the latter part of long-distance running. The bacteria make lactate for propionate, a short-chain fatty acid, which is an energy source and can also be an anti-inflammatory, a Harvard-affiliated research group reported Monday in Natural Medicine .

In theory, a feedback loop is set up: When the athletes exercise, they produce constant lactate. They also create a niche in their microbiome for organisms that can use lactate as a primary energy source.

After confirming in 87 other athletes what they found in the marathons, the scientists showed only in mice ] ̵

1; to colonize the laboratory animals with a strain of Veillonella taken from one of the elite athletes, extended their treadmill endurance by 13%. This improvement may not sound impressive, but athletes who strive to shave seconds from their personal bests would probably call it great if major studies were to bear the results.

"This study represents a hypothesis, but as an yet untested mechanism by which the microbiome can affect host physiology during extreme activities. In fact, we have proposed a similar mechanism in the past," said Jack Gilbert, a professor at the Medicine School at University of California, San Diego. He was not involved in the research. "We already know that microbes can digest food and produce metabolites that can improve muscle quality and strengthen the muscles. This study provides compelling evidence to support lactate metabolism as an important component of extreme athlete performance."

In his own Research has Orla & Sullivan from University College, Cork, in Ireland also seen levels of Veillonella family of bacteria rising in rugby players. " What this paper does is add to the previous results that have shown that athletes have different microbiomas than sedentary people," she said, adding that there is a long way to see why this is and how it happens . Does your microbiom help determine if you can be an athlete or is it an athlete that affects your microbiom? Will the improved endurance only seen in mice show up in humans too?

O & # 39; Sullivan also wonders whether the athletes' post marathon bump in Veillonella helped their recovery rather than endurance because of the anti-inflammatory action of the propionate. She said it would also be interesting to see if the phenomenon only occurs in endurance athletes or across all athletics.

Some of the co-authors of natural medicine studies pursue two divergent traces based on their early findings, as they say, to be tested in larger trials.

Jonathan Scheiman, who led the research while he was a postdoctoral fellow in genetics George Church's lab last year, contributed a church biotech called Fitbiomics . Based in New York, the goal of the startup is to market probiotics.

"For Fitbiomics, our goal is not really elite athletes. It's everyone else who just wants to be healthier, more active and more fit," said Scheiman. He did not reveal the company's funding or a timeline to develop products. "We start with consumer health and nutrition – we can expand into perhaps also therapeutic applications."

Senior author Aleksandar Kostic from the Joslin Diabetes Center believes that their discoveries about what is unique in microbiomas of super-healthy athletes could potentially help prevent disease. Kostic owns equity in Fitbiomics.

"The ability to make meaningful exercise is strongly correlated with reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes," Kostic said. "If we can increase a person's training capacity by making a simple change of their microbiom, perhaps by introducing Veillonella as a probiotic, this could potentially have a medically important effect on reducing the risk of chronic disease."

Don I am not yet looking at Veillonella. In addition to cultivating his function in several people and understanding how it works, Kostic and Scheiman point out that not all the high-performing athletes they tested had a high level of Veillonella. And there may be better microbes to pursue.

"Veillonella is great and we are happy about Veillonella," said Scheiman. "I think the real question now is what is out there?"

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