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For better gut bacteria, eat more oily fish

Up until now, the focus has mainly been on increasing fibre intake but recent findings have found another way to boost your gut bacteria: eat more fish or take omega-3 supplements

Ana Valdes | The Conversation 

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Having lots of different types of in your gut has many benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. So finding ways to increase the number and diversity of good in your gut is important.

Up until now, the focus has mainly been on increasing fibre intake, as gut are known to thrive in people who have high-fibre diets. But we have found another way to boost your gut bacteria: eat more or take omega-3 supplements.

We know that omega-3 fatty acids are good for our and omega-3 supplements are often used to help people with conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and skin problems. We wondered if omega-3 might also be beneficial for the good bacteria that live in our gut, as some studies in mice have already suggested.

To test this idea, we asked 876 middle-aged women in the UK about their diet and the supplements they took regularly. From this information we computed how much omega-3 they were taking. We also took a blood sample and measured how much omega-3 they actually had in their blood. This is more accurate than just asking them how much they eat and about supplements.

The participants also provided us with a stool sample. This allowed us to measure the types of and biochemical compounds in their guts.

Anti-inflammatory substances

We found that people with higher levels of omega-3 in their blood, regardless of whether they ate fibre or not, had a greater variety of in their gut. This in itself indicates a healthier gut. Not only that, these people also carried more “good” in the gut. These are types of that have already been found by other scientists to relate to lower inflammation and lower risk of gut diseases, such as colitis. Those are known to produce substances that prevent inflammation in the colon, in particular a substance called butyrate.

So, could it be that omega-3 makes in the gut produce other substances that are particularly good for us? To test this idea, we looked at the biochemical compounds present in the stool samples. We found three compounds that tracked the omega-3 in the participants’ blood or their diet. These three chemical compounds were (not surprisingly) omega-3 itself, a compound derived from flesh and a compound called “n-carbamyl glutamate” (NCG).

NCG was also higher in people with more of the good anti-inflammatory In other scientific studies, feeding NCG to pigs or rats resulted in them having healthier guts, with lower inflammation and lower damage due to free radicals.

What we think is happening is that when people eat oil (either because they eat or because they take supplements) the omega-3 gives a fillip to the anti-inflammatory that produce butyrate. But also omega-3 helps produce NCG, which in turn has other benefits in the gut that have been seen in animals.

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Because we want to know exactly how much omega-3 is necessary to improve the gut and how this compares to the benefit of fibre, we are starting a new investigation giving specific doses of omega-3 or fibre to healthy volunteers, which is all part of improving our through what we eat. 


Ana Valdes, Associate Professor and Reader, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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First Published: Thu, September 14 2017. 11:03 IST
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