According to a new study, some gut bacteria species can awaken the desire to exercise by activating certain nerves in the gut.
The research was done by scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania, was published in Nature and involved experimentation on mice, showing the pathway between the gut and the brain and how the bacteria are able to promote the desire to exercise.
During the study, researchers noticed differences in running performance within a group of lab mice and were able to link this to the presence of a specific gut-dwelling bacterial species, those being the high performing animals.
That being said, the team traced it to metabolites, small molecules the bacteria can produce that stimulate the gut’s sensory nerves, activating a motivation-controlling brain region while being active.
Naturally, if the same pathway can be confirmed in humans, it means a great boost in activity levels and health for the general public.
After years of experiments, the researchers found the two bacterial species linked to better performance – Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus.
Both of these are able to produce metabolites referred to as fatty acid amides or FAAs.
Study co-author J. Nicholas Betley mentioned that “This gut to brain motivation pathway may have evolved to connect nutrient availability and the state of gut bacterial population to the desire to engage in prolonged physical activity. This line of research may develop into an entirely new branch of exercise physiology.”
The study opens up many other avenues for scientific investigation.
For instance, the experiments also showed evidence that the more highly performing mice also experienced a more intense runner’s high along with less pain sensitivity.
Sure enough, the promising results will be followed by other studies meant to hopefully find the same pathway in human beings as well.
As for the way it would benefit us, it could offer safe, affordable and diet-based ways of increasing people’s desire to be more active.
In addition to that, it may also optimize athletes’ performance.
And perhaps even more importantly, it might offer easier ways to change behavior and mood in those struggling with addiction or depression.