It’s the festive season, a time where we often are over eating and over indulging, especially when it comes to food. But did you know this could be related to your gut health?
This was reviewed in a study earlier this year led by Dr Emeran Mayer from University College Los Angeles, involving 63 healthy people. MRI scans were conducted on their brains; faecal studies were analysed and participants completed a questionnaire about their eating habits.
The results showed that those with elevated levels of the metabolite indole in their microbiome showed greater function and connectivity in the brain’s ‘reward’ network. The nucleus accumbens (a brain region which processes reward stimuli such as food) and the amygdala (which helps regulate emotions) were activated when these people were hungry or eating. Furthermore, those with higher levels of indole also were more likely to have food addiction and consequent over eating, as determined by questionnaires they completed.
This is the first human study to show the association between specific metabolites produced by gut bacteria and over eating behaviours. The findings suggest that indole — or our gut bacteria’s ability to produce it — could contribute to food addiction behaviours in humans. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that our gut microbiome has a significant impact on our health, moods and behaviours.
This opens the door to future studies assessing whether specific interventions, such as changes to diet, could affect brain function and therefore affect the desire to overeat or to eat when not really hungry.
The study was published August 6 in the journal PLOS One.