If An Addiction To Lifeway Kefir Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right:
So ever since Jamie Lee Curtis tried to show America her gastrointestinal tract for Activia, we’ve had a renaissance in the field of probiotics.
But in the recent years, there have been some well-reasoned critiques of some as being ineffective.
So what are we supposed to make of all these special bugs that allegedly help us in a variety of different ways?
Are the naysayers right, or are the yogurt saleswomen who are “experiencing technical difficulties” the ones on the right track?
Well, considering we know very little about them, let’s take our lead from a study out of China that focuses on something we all want to do.
-Live a lot longer than average…
The Short Answer:
- Some studies suggest probiotics might not be that effective.
- But humanity has been fermenting everything we can for a long time.
- Not just beer & wine.
- The science of gut microbes is still in its infancy.
- It’s hard to tell which ones we need to improve in specific ways for specific outcomes.
- But we can use people who live very long as a good guide.
- In a study of over 1600 people, gut microbes of those over 100 years-old had a lot in common with those of 22-44 year-olds.
- One of those that seemed notable was Bacteroides.
- It seems to process carbs & fiber well, and it also stabilizes others that could be harmful.
- Another study showed that people who live over 100 have a very even distribution of microbes that still keeps a lot of Bacteroides over 18 months.
- Who knows how they do this and if its a benefit or an indicator.
- Another study showed that diets with helpful microbes in them improve 8 different facets of health including cholesterol, inlammation, blood sugar, and BMI.
Read on to find out the details…
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So it’s normal to be doubtful.
Companies have something to sell, they come up with a formula that’s supposed to be unique in some vague kind of way.
They brand it with something catchy; perhaps involve a celebrity.
Boom: Sales! But results?…
I guess the best thing we have to go on is that for some weird reason, humanity has been fermenting everything we can get our hands on for all of history.
And not just to stop the joint-pains after a course of Cipro kills everything in our bodies except our bodies.
-So there has to be something more behind it than, “What can we do to make this milk last longer?”
A few of the other problems we run into is that probiotic science is in its absolute infancy.
Which are you supposed to have?
Which different types of microbes, and in what proportions are best for the performance you want and the diet you currently have?
How do you measure results unless they’re fairly-immediate and very obvious to the individual?
Well then let’s take our cues from the work starting out on The 100+ Club!
Because a team of researchers in China is tracking down the best possible reason to worry about gut microbes, since we found out they make a ton of the feel-good chemicals that go through your brain.
In a small study of almost 1600 subjects, researchers looked at the type of microbes in the guts of people from ages 20 to 117 years old.
They were divided into 5 brackets and compared to control groups in 5 brackets between ages 20 & 99.
Still further, a group of 45 100+ year-olds were followed for even longer to test their microbes over time.
The scientists then compared all the microbes they were able to collect and grouped them into 4 separate profiles.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Because the people over 100 years old had profiles with 2 strains of bacteria that were very similar to those in the youngest bracket!
(for the microbe-nerds out there these types were Bacteroides and Escherichia)
The great part of that being that these two strains are very helpful, and they also process carbs well, too.
And Bacteroides is also good at stabilizing the gut so other strains don’t get out of control and overgrow.
Not only that, but the centenarians had a very even distribution of all types of microbes when compared to all the other brackets.
Who knows how this comes about, because there are several theories that might cast the results in one light or another.
But that’s not where the magic of the centenarians ends.
The longer-term tests showed something even more encouraging.
One of the problems that comes up with time is what researchers call, Microbial Shift.
This might be what’s responsible for low energy, heart disease, high cholesterol, and maybe several other problems of a very serious nature.
It’s so pervasive that even animals go through it, too.
And if you’ve heard of microbial transplants, those have also been verified in small animals of several kinds.
Several of these have shown positive health impacts on the animals tested, just like the crazy blood-transfusion experiments.
The good news for centenarians in the 18-month study is that even though their gut microbes did shift,
They still retained a significant amount of the very helpful one most present in young subjects, Bacteroides.
So who knows how they do this.
Is it genetics? Is it something they all inherited from their mothers when a baby first gets a huge part of their microbe start from Mom?
Is it just some weird nutritional, supplementation, Sriracha addiction?
Are they Intuitive Eaters?
That is something SCIENCE! does not yet know, because as we said before, we’re still in the infancy of gut microbe science.
But there may be some other work that suggests it’s all worth it, and may not be just down to genetic roulette.
So if you weren’t ready to listen to a bunch of people who’ve survived to be over 100, then buckle up.
Because another study done by UC Davis turned up some interesting results.
This some of the same members from another piece of work that gave you even more reason to eat fresh fruits & veg.
Because after the fermented foods you’d normally suspect, those two groups also had the most amount of helpful microbes on them.
-Even though we normally think of microbes on food as automatically being bad when the food is not yogurt or kimchi.
So although the CAS, Nanning study we started out with suggests health benefits,
The UC Davis work proves them.
Now who knows how much these benefits can stack up over time,
But so far a diet that involves consumption of live microbes from things like fermented foods and fresh produce,
Shows improvements in:
1) Blood Sugar
2) Waist Measurements
3) Inflammation Markers like C-Reactive Protein
4) Triglycerides (or fat in the bloodstream)
5) Blood Pressure
6) Insulin Levels
7) Good Cholesterol
8) Our Old Friend, BMI
Some interpretations have called them modest.
But let’s face it, with obesity rates in the US at 42% and overweight rates at ~31%,
A huge percentage of the problems those people will face are somewhat improved by diets with live microbes.
And since a researcher from the other post we have about centenarians said they don’t have any fat ones,
Just imagine how much good the happy bugs might do for a normal-weight person.
So although we don’t yet have a standard set of healthy probiotics everyone should get each day,
We can definitely see at least one team of researchers starting to build what might be a Blueprint for that.
And with so many other health issues seemingly related to them, or the pre-biotic foods that they eat which also come from the diet,
I think it’s safe to say at some point in the future, Cipro won’t be needed, and we’ll all have check-ins and prescriptions for bespoke Kombuchas.
And we’ll all be able to avoid some of the greater or lesser problems caused by an unfortunate shift in our microbiome.
-Like Depression, Anxiety, Inflammation, or worse.
Until then, eat your yogurt. It just might save your life!
See you in the 100+ Club!
• Source: UC Davis
• Source Studies:
• NatureAge. – Longevity of centenarians is reflected by the gut microbiome with youth-associated signatures
• J.Nutrition – Positive Health Outcomes Associated with Live Microbe Intake from Foods, Including Fermented Foods, Assessed using the NHANES Database