Why Less-Diverse Gut Bacteria May Not Be Such A Bad Thing

By: Agata Blaszczak-Boxe
Published: April 16, 2015 01:57pm ET on LiveScience

Your lifestyle affects the bacteria in your poop, a new study shows: The poop of people who live in Western countries may contain a less-diverse group of bacteria than the poop of people who live of nonindustrialized countries, according to the study.

In the study, researchers compared poop samples from people in the United States with samples from people in Papua New Guinea, a nation in the South Pacific that is one of the least industrialized countries in the world. The results showed that the diversity of bacteria in the poop was greater in the samples from Papua New Guineans than in those from U.S. residents.

In fact, the U.S. poop samples lacked about 50 bacterial types that were found in the samples from the Papua New Guineans.

The finding suggests that the Western lifestyle alters the gut microbiome, which is the community of bacteria living in the gut, said study author Jens Walter, an associate professor of food and nutrition science at the University of Alberta. Differences in sanitation and the use of antibiotics between the countries could explain some of the differences in gut-bacteria diversity, he said. [Why Is My Poop Green?]

But diet also may play a role. “One hypothesis is that one of the reasons why we miss or lose some of the bacteria species in our gut is our very refined diet, which lacks fiber,” Walter told Live Science.

The researchers also found that bacterial dispersal — the ability of bacteria to spread from one person to another within a community —was the dominant process that affected the microbiome in the Papua New Guineans. But this was not the case in the U.S. residents.

“Lifestyle practices that reduce bacterial dispersal —specifically, sanitation and drinking-water treatment — —> Read More