Last week we talked about holobionts, or the supra-organisms formed by the host and its microbiota. Today, before we move on to another topic, I bring you another interesting fact. The role of the intestinal microbiota in the control of oxidative stress, inflammation, metabolism and energy expenditure during intense exercise has been studied for some time now. In this context, a very interesting paper was published last year, studying the influence of the microbiota on our physical performance. Let’s see what they found.
The researchers started with two study groups: Marathoners (in case you have any doubts: intense exercise) and their control, sedentary people. Both groups were followed daily for 2 weeks: 1 week before the marathon and 1 week after the marathon. The follow-up consisted of taking and analyzing their intestinal microbiota. When studying the samples, they found that bacteria of the genus Veillonella were the most changed in the pre and post-marathon samples. To analyze their effect, they inoculated mice with these bacteria (Veillonella atypica). When testing their physical performance, they found that the mice that had received Veillonella ran, on average, 13% longer than the controls (13% may not seem like much to you, but on a competitive level that’s huge!) In addition, the results showed that lactate produced during exercise (the same one that causes us muscle pain after exercising) can be accessed by the intestinal microbiota and that Veillonella is capable of metabolizing it, thus improving physical performance. However, Veillonella atypica is not the only bacteria able to use lactate as an energy source, so why does this preference occur? That, we do not know yet, like so many other things we are just beginning to understand about this intricate and wonderful ecosystem of which we are a part.