A study published in Molecular Systems Biology on October 16 elucidates the importance of balanced gut bacteria in avoiding the development of various diseases and disorders, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other metabolism-related illnesses.
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut bacteria, was already known to play a key role in the development of the above-mentioned diseases. The study, conducted by scientists in Sweden, helps to further explain why.
“Gut microbiota regulates your glutathione and amino acid metabolism — not only in the small intestine but also in the liver and the colon,” says study co-author Adil Mardinoglu of Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Glutathione is the body’s most important antioxidant — a substance which prevents cell damage caused by oxidative stress and toxins, such as heavy metals and carcinogens. It is composed of the amino acids cysteine, glutamate, and glycine. Without glutathione, our bodies would not be able to fight disease.
The link between gut bacteria and glutathione metabolism could lead to the development of food products that can deliver beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, to the gut.
Researchers were able to detect clear metabolic differences in the small intestines of conventionally raised mice (which had normal gut bacteria) and bacteria-free mice. Specifically, the mice that lacked intestinal bacteria displayed a lower level of glycine, a key component of glutathione. These differences were also detected in the livers and colons of the bacteria-free mice.
In previous research, decreased levels of the amino acid glycine had already been linked to type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease, and so on. The study shows that this depletion of glycine is directly linked to imbalanced gut flora. Further research is needed to show the exact mechanisms in how these and other similar diseases develop over time.
“The link between gut bacteria and glutathione metabolism could lead to the development of food products that can deliver beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, to the gut,” Mardinoglu says, as reported in ScienceDaily.