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Elite marathoners’ gut bacteria help mice run faster

Researchers tested elite marathoner's stool and found one strain of bacteria that improved running performance in mice

On Monday the Nature Medicine journal published a study on a special microbe found in runners’ stool samples: veillonella. Veillonella is a lactate-processing microbe that was much more prevalent in the stool samples of elite runners than the general population, especially post-exercise.

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The researchers isolated veillonella from the stools of elite marathon runners and transferred it into the guts of mice. Then they had the mice run on treadmills. NPR reports that when compared to the control group, the veillonella mice won by a pretty sizeable margin of 13 per cent in their treadmill exertion test.

Gut microbes are a very hot topic right now, with many runners already taking various pro- and pre-biotics to help with digestion and overall gut health. A 2015 study even suggested that exercising while young alters microbes in the gut, which in turn strengthens the immune system and improves brain health.

The brain function which they can influence includes anti-depressant effects. The study’s lead author, Monika Fleshner, says that this is the first time they have looked at how much these microbes can be changed, and her research group found that there is a window of time when regular exercise can alter these microbes.

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While it’s unlikely that runners will start taking veillonella supplements as a performance enhancer, there’s certainly a developing link between the gut and exercise.

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