The adage that diet and exercise can make a difference in a person’s life was borne out in experimentation by UC Riverside scientists using mice, leading to findings that gut bacteria needed to stay healthy can be regulated by eating habits and physical activity at a young age.

UCR physiologist Theodore Garland led a team of researchers in exploring how intestinal bacteria react to consumption habits and activity, and the results of the study were published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The focus was how the microbiome — the consortium of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses — that dwell in a body changes when the balance is tipped one way or another by diet and exercise.

“We studied mice, but the effect we observed is equivalent to kids having a Western diet, high in fat and sugar, and their gut microbiome … being affected,” Garland said.

His team divided lab mice into groups, with some fed a “healthy diet,” some fed Western-style, some allowed regular exercise on a running wheel and others permitted to exercise at all.

Over a 14-week period, the mice were monitored and tested, and the results showed the bacteria that controls carbohydrate metabolism fell in mice fed the Western-style diet, meaning a lower calorie burn.

“Analysis also showed that the gut bacteria are sensitive to the amount of exercise the mice got,” according to a UCR statement. “Muribaculum bacteria increased in mice fed a standard diet who had access to a running wheel and decreased in mice on a high-fat diet whether they had exercise or not.”

The researchers found the muribaculum bacteria appeared to be among good gut bacteria that influences energy levels.

Further studies are planned, but according to Garland, the research reflected that, like mice, children with poor dining habits and limited activity in the early stages of life can lose an important bacterial balance needed for health.

The study can be found at

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