Athletes’ guts – not just their bodies and minds – are completely different to those of the general public, according to new research.
A study undertaken by scientists at the Cork-based APC Microbiome Institute and Teagasc, in collaboration with Imperial College London, found that the microorganisms residing in the guts of professional sportspeople are distinct from those of ‘regular’ people in several ways.
Most tellingly, it covers both the function of these microorganisms – as in, what they do – and their metabolic properties – as in, what they produce.
“Our earlier work, also published in ‘Gut’, had shown that the microbiome of the athletes differed in composition from that of non-athletes, but now we have found that functional behaviour of the microbiome separates the athletes and controls to an even greater degree,” said the Institute’s Director, Professor Fergus Shanahan.
Diversity of microbes
The research looked at professional rugby players, involving 40 players from the Irish national squad. It found that there were suggested links between diet and exercise and the diversity of microbes in the gut.
Athletes’ guts are particularly primed for tissue repair and can harness energy from their diet, reflecting the increased demands and high cell turnover evident in elite sport.
The team behind the study now want to encourage further research which ultimately impact on the way everyone plans their meals. Dr Orla O’Sullivan, senior author on the publication, said: “Elaboration and further exploration of the components of this exercise and diet-microbiome paradigm may inform the design of exercise and fitness programmes, including the area of tailored nutrition for both athletes and non-athletes.”