Specific mushroom alters microbiome of mice to reduce obesity

Natural medicinal products are used around the world and prominently in Eastern civilizations. One such product, the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom has been used for centuries to promote better health. Scientific research has shown that polysaccharides (complex sugars) isolated from the fungus prevent fat cell formation in diabetic mice, and other isolates promote antidiabetic activity. Scientists in Taiwan were curious as to whether G. lucidum had any effect on body weight and obesity-related disorders such as chronic low-grade inflammation which leads to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, and they published their results in Nature Communications.

The researchers tested whether water extract of G. lucidum mycelium (WEGL) can decrease obesity in high fat diet-fed mice (HFD).  A group of mice was fed a control chow diet, while another group was fed a high fat diet for 8 weeks. The chow and HFD-fed mice were treated daily with either water or WEGL at 2, 4, or 8% for two months.

The obese-human microbiome is often characterized by an increased Firmicutes- to-Bacteroidetes ratio. The researchers examined the gut microbiome of the mice and found that treatment of HFD-fed mice with 4% and 8% WEGL reduced the bacterial ratio to resemble one similar to that of chow-fed mice. In another test, 8% WEGL HFD-fed mice had an increased variety of bacterial species that negatively correlate with obesity, such as Parabacteroides goldsteinii, Anaerotruncus colihominis, Roseburia hominis, and more.  

WEGL fecal transplants were performed on some mice as well, which determined that it was indeed the altered gut microbiota of WEGL HFD-fed mice that is improved as the obese mice receiving the fecal transplant had reduced weight and a reduced Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio. Overall, it appears that WEGL affects the gut microbiome of HFD-fed mice in a way that alters it to more closely resemble the microbiome of chow-fed mice. It was discovered that the high molecular weight polysaccharide fraction of WEGL may be responsible for its beneficial effects. While this is an exciting finding, this study was conducted in mice and it will be important to better understand the impacts this has on humans before people are out buying these mushrooms with the hope that it will lead to decreased obesity. 

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The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.

Elderly people's microbiomes may contribute to their frailty

The ELDERMET program is a microbiome project in Ireland out of the University College Cork that is attempting to define the elderly microbiome and discover any associations between the microbiome and diseases linked with frailty and old age.  The team has published multiple papers from this project, some of which we have already blogged about, and last week they published another one in the ISME Journal.  In this latest paper the researchers described in fine detail just how the microbiota changes with diet within a geriatric population, and how this is actually independent of where the elderly people live.

The researchers studied the fecal microbiota of 384 elderly subjects over the course of one year.  They noticed immediately that the microbiomes clustered dependent upon whether the person was living in a nursing home or living amongst the general community.    The researchers characterized the microbiota in 4 groups based on a certain characteristics: M1, M2, M3, and M9.  M1 is a group of genera that is present in almost all subjects sampled, so it represents a core microbiome and is composed of genera such as Bacteroides, Alistipes, Parabacteroides, Faecalibacterium and Ruminococcus.   M2 is a cluster that is composed of bacteria that are associated with high-fiber diets and health, and is comprised of Coprococcus, Prevotella and Catenibacterium.  M3 is associated with folks who lived long-term residential care facilities, and consists of Anaerotruncus, Desulfovibrio and Coprobacillus genera.  Finally, M9 consists of other bacteria that were often found, like strains of Bacteroides, Parabacteroides and Alistipes.

The scientists then compared these microbiome groups with health indicators.  They discovered that highly diverse microbiomes were associated with health, especially among those living in the general community.  However, even though living in long term care facilities often increased diversity, having an M3 microbiome was overall associated with negative health.  In addition, the researchers noted that while individual foods were not strongly correlated with any health indicators, ‘healthy diets’ characterized by high fiber intake, were associated with better health than ‘unhealthy diets’.  Finally, when looking at how the microbiome changed over time, it was apparent that entering a nursing home increased the likelihood of shifting the subjects’ microbiomes to the M3 state, which is associated with bad health.  The researchers think this is likely due to the lack of fiber in nursing home food, and the high use of antibiotics.

The authors state that older people have many differences in their eating habits as compared to a normal adult population, like number of teeth, amount of chewing, and intestinal transit time, and all of these things may be contributing to the altered microbiome.    Regardless of these exogenous factors, this study reinforces the notion that lack of diet diversity and high use of drugs in nursing homes may be creating dysbioses that contribute to frailty disease.  If you have loved ones in an extended stay facility we recommend considering supplementing their diet with some fresh vegetables, so as to keep their microbiome from turning against them.

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The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.