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Diet Appears to Influence Gut Bacteria Types

Comparative study finds different gut microbes in Italian and African children

TUESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Gut bacteria may be different in children who eat a high-fiber, vegetation-based diet than in those who consume a typically Western, high-fat, high-sugar, low-fiber diet, and the bacteria may play a role in vulnerability to obesity and allergies, according to research published online Aug. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carlotta De Filippo, Ph.D., of the University of Florence in Italy, and colleagues used high-throughput 16S rDNA sequencing and biochemical analysis to compare fecal micobiota in 15 children from Florence, Italy, and 14 African children from a small rural village in Burkina Faso. They write that the African children's high-fiber diet was similar to that of early human settlements around the birth of agriculture but that the Italian children's diets were low in fiber, high in fat, and high in sugar.

The researchers found that the African children had higher levels of Bacteroidetes and Actinobacteria, while the Italian children had higher levels of Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. The African children had high levels of bacteria associated with the hydrolysis of cellulose and xylan, which the Italian children lacked altogether. The African children also had significantly more short-chain fatty acids and significantly less Enterobacteriaceae. The authors theorize that gut microbiota in the African individuals co-evolved with their diet, allowing them to maximize caloric intake from fiber and protecting them from inflammation and noninfectious colonic diseases.

"This study investigates and compares human intestinal microbiota from children characterized by a modern western diet and a rural diet, indicating the importance of preserving this treasure of microbial diversity from ancient rural communities worldwide," the authors write.

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