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Gut Bacteria May Be Ruling Our Minds

Update Date: Aug 17, 2014 12:22 AM EDT

Bacteria within us may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, according to a new study. These bacteria outnumber our own cells about 100-fold. 

The conclusion came from review of a recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way, according to press release. 

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem-our digestive tracts-they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

Researchers are yet to explain exactly how this happens but they believe this diverse community of microbes, called gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. The gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system and these signals are likely to influence our physiologic and behavioral responses. 

"Bacteria within the gut are manipulative," said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper, in the press release, "There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not."

The article has been published in the journal BioEssays

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