“The more scientists investigate the microbes living inside us, the more they learn about the surprising impact of these tiny organisms on how we look, act, think, and feel”, starts a new article on gut microbiota featured in National Geographic Magazine (January 2020) that looks over the key functions these essential microorganisms have for human health through our lives.
Although this pioneer science magazine has tackled gut microbiota advances before, in this new article, Robin Marantz Hening talks about the latest results and studies focusing on life stages, since we are born and gut microbiota starts colonizing our digestive tract, until the old age, when gut microbiota diversity inevitably decreases.
Especially, the article tackles the issue of how the way we are born can influence our health later on life, for instance, our probability to develop food allergies or asthma, providing the latest research on the subject. Also, talks about the gut-brain axis, and how microbes can influence our brain and vice versa, for instance, in some mental disorders, such as anxiety and even autism.
The publication contains some amazing photographs of Martin Oeggerli taken with an electron microscope
Gut microbiota is relatively stable after it is set during the first three or four years of life. Only really relevant changes, such as a dramatic change of diet -for instance, becoming a vegetarian or adopting Western diet-, or taking several courses of antibiotics, can radically change it.
But and although it may seem a paradox the evolution of the microbiome over the course of time is also predictable. So much predictable that you could tell the age of a person looking at their gut microorganisms.
Not only gut microbiota influences our health, but also recent studies link it to our personality. In this sense, Marant Hening recalls in the article a research published last year that showed that “something supposedly as innate as a child’s temperament might be related to whether the bacteria in an infant’s gut are predominantly from one genus: the more Bifidobacterium bugs, the sunnier the baby”.
The feature is Illustrated with amazing photographs by Martin Oeggerli. Electron microscopy reveals a fascinating universe of microorganisms. He has tainted the picture with false colors to flaunt the diversity and beauty of bacteria; if you did not know they were microorganisms, you would bet some of the living creatures in the pictures belong to beautiful coral ecosystems. Even Oeggerli managed to catch Streptococcus pneumoniae dividing.
The article, originally published in the 2020 January issue of National Geographic, can be read online on their website.