Interest in how the gut microbiome is linked to athletic performance – and the potential of modulation of the microbiota via pre- and probiotics to boost performance – is an area of increasing interest.
A recent extensive review of the athletic gut microbiota (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2020, Vol. 17, Article No: 24) found that much of the human research into the athletic microbiome has been done only recently.
Starting in 2014 in Ireland with a study on rugby players, 10 studies have looked into gut microbiome makeup among athletes, and seven of those have been published in only the past two years. In addition to the rugby players, subjects have included professional cyclists, elite distance runners and competitive walkers and Olympic rowers.
Understanding that the gut microbiome of elite athletes is more diverse and displays a higher abundance of health-promoting bacterial species is only half of the discussion, however. The next question is whether we could mine these elite microbiomes for potential novel probiotic strains.
Mining the athletic microbiome
And that is exactly what FitBiomics is doing. A paper published last summer in Nature Medicine by Harvard University and FitBiomics focused on a strain of Veillonella, which they found were increased in abundance in ultra-marathon runners post-race. The team then isolated one strain of Veillonella atypica from stool samples.
The specific strain offers a heightened ability to deal with lactic acid, one of the byproducts of high intensity exercise, and therefore may offer endurance benefits.
The scientists established a crucial and important link that lactic acid metabolism in the gut could influence muscular lactic acid levels.
“This is one of many organisms that we’ve discovered and are developing,” Jonathan Scheiman, FitBiomics’ CEO, told NutraIngredients-USA.
Indeed, FitBiomics is also working on athlete-derived Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains to support digestion, metabolism, and immunology. The company is currently beta-testing these products ahead of a potential launch early in 2021.
“We look at optimal physiology and optimal health, and I’m a firm believer that elite athletes are a proxy for understanding optimal health. If you could decode their biology, you could look for things that are unique, that are enriched, things that change over time, and if you could identify those, you could potentially translate those into nutritional modalities that are not just beneficial to athletes but the general population.
“FitBiomics is about mining the biology of the most fit and healthy people in the world. Decoding that information and translating that into consumer products.”
Scheiman said that the company has isolated dozens of athlete-derived probiotics, and it is developing a handful of these for applications beyond sports nutrition.
“We’re also talking to potential partners to help us commercialize and develop these even further beyond sports nutrition. What you’re really talking about is unlocking extremely beneficial phenotypes that confer optimal health. Let’s decode it, let’s mine it, and let’s translate that to make it accessible to everyone, so the more folks you can work with in that process, the better.”