What’s in your gut – besides breakfast, lunch and supper?

Similar to the classification of blood types, the bacteria in our guts appear to fit into one of three categories that have no relation to our nationality, age, sex and other characteristics, new research indicates. The study combined genetic information from about three dozen people in six countries, revealing that everyone falls into one of three categories they dub enterotypes, which they believe are spread around the globe just like blood types.

Humans’ guts are home to swarms of bacteria. Members of this internal ecosystem help us with all sorts of important tasks, such as digesting food, assisting our immune systems and producing nutrients such as vitamin K. And research indicates there is a connection between these micro-organisms and some health problems, including obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.

Using an approach called metagenomics, researchers sequenced genetic material collected from fecal samples from 22 people in Denmark, France, Italy and Spain, and combined that with existing data from residents of Japan and the United States.

Their analysis revealed three enterotypes determined by the relative abundance of different networks of species, according to study researcher Peer Bork, a unit head at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany…

While the type of bacteria present in the gut showed no connection to the host’s characteristics, this was not the case for the bacteria’s function. For instance, the presence of bacteria capable of breaking down starch appears to increase with someone’s age. And men seem to carry more bacteria with the machinery to synthesize aspartate, an amino acid.

The findings, detailed in the most recent issue of the journal Nature, have implications for personalized medicine, in which treatments can be tailored to an individual’s needs

Knowledge of enterotypes may also help with the development of techniques to restore healthy gut communities, rather than killing off all of the bugs living there with antibiotics…

I imagine we’ll have about as much cooperation with political systems and corporations with a vested interest in profitable processed foods in educating folks about enterotypes – as we do with anything else found to aid in healthful living.

That doesn’t even begin to count the ideologues whose “liberty” might be limited by science or reason.

OTOH, this study is miniscule – and expansive work is needed to corroborate anything more than an educated guess at this stage.