by Lisa Keilhofer

Going well for me: even better with these gut bacteria

Can gut bacteria improve athletic performance?
Can gut bacteria improve athletic performance? Picture: © lassedesignen –

The editors of SPIEGEL magazine seem to be pretty much into the microbiome issue now. Only recently, we shared an article on the print edition 29/2019 on gut and gut bacteria (to this article). And here is the latest SPIEGEL essay on microbiome, this time available on the >>> online platform (only in german language).

Lactates and propionates as indicators for stress tolerance

The article refers to a publication in the >>> „Nature Magazine“ dating from July 2019 on research done at the Joslin Diabetes Center (Harvard School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts) based on examinations of athletes participating in the Boston Marathon in 2015.

Fecal samples of 15 athletes were taken one week prior to the marathon and one week after the marathon. It occurred to the team that all samples showed an increased level in Veillonella bacteria. The scientists assumed the Veillonella to metabolize the lactates that increase with continuing muscle performance. The degradation product of this process, the so-called propionates, support the metabolism of sugars and fats (>>> Wikipedia: Propionate); and this process releases energy to fuel the working muscles. If the demand of energy exceeds the supply, the lactates increase. Lactate tests are common means of measuring performance in sports medicine. What is new is the idea that the lactate level might be influenced by nutrition.

Performance-enhancing cures under progress

This assumption was tested and verified with mice. The guts of some individuals were artificially enriched with Veillonella bacteria and these particular mice showed a performance 13% above average in the treadmill. This indicates a direct connection between Veillonella and performance. Consequently, Veillonella cures could boost the performance.

We have pointed out in various previous publications that studies on mice are hard to be transferred one to one to humans. This is why many studies on health stay on the level of animal testing and therefore rather hypothetical for humans for the lack of volunteers for a comparative testing.

However, the search for voluntary athletes testing performance-enhancing cures could be pretty successful. So, scientists are already working on a probiotics-based diet especially for athletes. The results should be the healthiest doping in the history of competitive sports.

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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