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Three gut types may have functional differences, says researcher

By Nathan Gray , 04-Jul-2011
Last updated the 04-Jul-2011 at 15:04 GMT

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Earlier this year, an international team of scientists identified three distinct varieties of gut microflora. NutraIngredients caught up with the lead researcher of the project to find out more about the research and its possible implications.

Speaking with NutraIngredients at the International Yakult Symposium, Professor Jeroen Raes from the University of Brussels and the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology, Belgium said that he believes the discovery of the different enterotypes is only the beginning, noting that the initial study was not large enough to define any of the functionalities of the different types.

“The problem is, at the moment, we don’t have much evidence for that yet … we discovered the enterotypes but I don’t think we had enough data to describe them well enough,” said Raes.

The metagenomic study (initially reported here ) said that types of gut microbiota (called enterotypes) can be classified into three large, clearly distinguishable groups: Bacteroides, Prevotella and Ruminococcus – so named after the main bacteria to dominate the guts of the respective groups.

The initial research paper reported that the three enterotypes are not related to race, native country, or diet, however, Dr Raes now says that he is now not sure about this affirmation and has not ruled out a dietary link.

Dr Raes also added that that the enterotypes, which he likened to different configurations of an ecosystem, could change over time, though warned that this was currently still just a hypothesis.

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