Washington: Bugs that colonise the gastrointestinal tract of mammals have long been known to influence their host`s cholesterol metabolism. Now, Jens Walter and researchers at the University of Nebraska show that changes in cholesterol metabolism induced by diet can also alter gut flora.
What that means, practically speaking, is that microbial inhabitants of the gut are actually part of the body`s metabolic system.
"However, we still need to know which bacterial patterns not only are associated with disease, but actually contribute to it," says Walter, noting that his research showed that some alterations linked with metabolic disease might be the consequence, rather than cause, of the disorder.
Researchers added plant sterol esters (heterogeneous group of chemical compounds) to the the diets of hamsters they were studying, to find that it inhibited several gut bug species and blocked cholesterol absorption by the intestine, the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports.
That decreased cholesterol levels in the liver and the plasma prompted the hamsters` body to respond by synthesizing more cholesterol. That, in turn, boosted cholesterol excretion into the gut. The extra cholesterol served directly to inhibit bacterial growth, the Nebraska statement said.
Since changes in diet can influence composition of gut flora, health problems such as obesity might be targeted by dietary interventions designed to suppress bacteria that contribute to weight gain.
Researchers have shown that certain health problems are related to changes in the gut flora, such those induced by overuse of antibiotics.