The bacteria that call your gut home can have a tremendous impact on your overall health, but exactly how the bugs do so is a web that’s still being untangled. To investigate, researchers at Harvard Medical School have deleted a single gene from one gut bacteria species and found that it alters the metabolism of the host, reducing their weight gain.
If you were planning on having a beer tonight, then this will be welcome news.
The ‘miracle molecule’, which has been found in milk and may also be present in beer and some foods, has no side effects and could even lengthen lifespan, they say.
The snag is that the molecule, called nicotinamide riboside (NR), is extremely small, difficult to find and expensive to synthesise.
Johnan Auwerx, head of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, said experiments using mice revealed the molecule’s potential.
In an article in the specialist journal Cell Metabolism journal, Mr Auwerx called the results ‘impressive’.
“NR appears to play a role in preventing obesity,” said Mr Auwerx.
Working with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, his team found mice on a high-fat diet that were fed NR gained significantly less weight – 60% – than mice eating the same diet without NR supplements.
And none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing diabetes, unlike the untreated mice.
Mice which were fed NR supplements over a ten-week period had better endurance performance than those who were not.
They were also in better shape – and this was confirmed by observations of their muscle fibers under the microscope.
No side effects were discovered during the experiments.
“It really appears that cells use what they need when they need it, and the rest is set aside without being transformed into any kind of deleterious form,” said study author Carles Canto in a statement.
Mice who had been fed the molecule also performed better in endurance tests, as well as in tests measuring heat loss.
Mitochondria are thought to play a part in the aging process. It is hoped that by stimulating mitochondrial function with the NR molecule, scientists may see increases in longevity as well as other health improvements.
But the molecule is difficult to reproduce and extremely small. “At the moment, we can’t even measure its concentration in milk, so it’s impossible to know how much you would have to drink to be able to observe its effects,” Mr Auwerx added.
Research will continue with human testing at some point in the future.
Attribution: Mail Online