Health News

The Hadza’s Gut Bacteria Might Help The Rest Of The World

Photo from Wikipedia

The Hadza are modern-day hunters and gatherers living in the central Rift Valley in Tanzania. This small group is one of the few remaining in the world who still eat by foraging for food. Although modernity has touched their community, they remain largely untouched by industrialization.

Because of their lifestyle, scientists have long been studying the Hadza people’s biology, in order to learn more about human evolution. A new study from Stanford University focuses particularly on the evolution of the human diet, specifically gut bacteria, Gizmodo reports.

This study confirmed previous studies that described how the gut bacteria in the Hadza people turned out to be different and more diverse compared to the gut bacteria of those living in the industrialized world. In addition, the Stanford researchers found that the components of the gut bacteria changes from season to season.

Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist and lead author on the study, said, “All of the traditional populations have a certain set of gut microbes. We can look at them to infer the microbiome we should have evolved with. In the industrialized world, we now may have lost many of those bacteria.”

The focus on microbiomes comes after studies showed how gut bacteria can impact mental health, disease and even athletic abilities. Sonnenburg explained,

The most important thing for people to understand is that we are composite organisms. We’re not just human cells. It leads to this question of what microbes are the best for our health. We don’t have a good answer yet.

The way of life among the Hadza has remained largely unchanged over thousands of years, with the present-day community living closely to how their ancestors did, even with the presence of tourists or missionaries.

Researchers collected 350 fecal samples from 188 Hadza people in different seasons, because their diet varies according to what they find. The results showed that 70% of gut bacteria was absent between the end of the dry season, reappearing after the wet season commenced. This means that not only are diet and microbiomes linked, but that it is possible to change the makeup of gut bacteria according to food.

The team also compared the Hadza people’s microbiomes to 18 other hunter-gatherer communities and found significant similarities. Sonnenburg said, “One thing I feel pretty confident in is that our microbiome has definitely changed, and it looks like a deterioration. It really looks like an ecosystem in disrepair.”

Alyssa Crittenden, a nutritional anthropologist who has studied the Hadza people for 13 years, said that it is important to study the Hadza now, before modernization further changes their microbiomes. She also warns against adopting the hunter-gatherer diet. “We need to be very careful about adopting any diet that portends to be mimicking our evolutionary past. The microbiome is influenced by our whole world, not just what we eat,” Crittenden said.

The study was published in Science.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - We Would Love To Keep In Touch

If you liked this article then please consider joing our mailing list to receive the latest news, updates and opportunities from our team.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.