Exploring How Diet Affects Gut Fungi and Host Metabolism

Jim Crocker
11th March, 2024

Exploring How Diet Affects Gut Fungi and Host Metabolism

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In a Thai cohort, two main gut fungal communities were found: Saccharomyces (Sa) and Aspergillus/Penicillium (Ap/Pe)
  • Sa-dominated guts had less fungal diversity and were linked to poorer body composition and higher blood sugar when consuming fiber
  • Ap/Pe enterotype was associated with better fat and protein processing, while Sa enterotype specialized in breaking down complex carbs
Understanding the complex interactions within our bodies is crucial for advancing medical science and improving human health. One such intricate relationship is that between our gut microbiome—the community of microorganisms living in our intestines—and our overall well-being. While bacteria have been the primary focus of research in this area, scientists at Kasetsart University have recently turned their attention to the lesser-studied fungal components of the microbiome, known as the mycobiome[1]. This study sheds light on how these fungal residents may influence our metabolism and body composition. The mycobiome is a collection of various fungi that reside in the gut, and despite their smaller numbers compared to bacteria, they have a significant impact due to their size and complex biology. These fungi have been linked to several intestinal diseases and have intricate interactions with both our immune system and the bacteria in our gut[2]. The Kasetsart University study specifically looked at the gut mycobiome of a Thai cohort and discovered two dominant fungal communities, or enterotypes: one characterized by Saccharomyces (Sa) and the other by Aspergillus/Penicillium (Ap/Pe). The Sa enterotype was found to have lower diversity, likely because the Saccharomyces species are so prevalent they overshadow others. On the other hand, the Ap/Pe enterotype showed a different pattern, with a more diverse fungal community. These differences in diversity are not just trivial; they correspond to distinct metabolic behaviors and impacts on the host's body. Intriguingly, the study found that fiber consumption, usually considered beneficial, was associated with less favorable body composition and higher fasting glucose levels in individuals with the Sa enterotype. Conversely, for those with the Ap/Pe enterotype, a positive correlation existed between fiber intake and fat and protein consumption. This suggests that the type of fungi dominating the gut can influence how our bodies respond to certain nutrients. Furthermore, the Sa enterotype was linked to carbohydrate metabolism, indicating a specialization in breaking down sugars. Specifically, genes involved in the pentose and glucuronate interconversions pathways were more abundant in this group, suggesting a capability to degrade complex carbohydrates and utilize uncommon sugars for energy. The Ap/Pe enterotype, however, was associated with lipid metabolism, hinting at a different nutritional processing strategy. These findings are particularly relevant in light of the increasing rates of obesity, especially in developing countries, where lifestyle factors like diet and physical activity play a significant role[3]. The Thai cohort study's insights into the gut mycobiome offer a new perspective on how our diets and the microscopic life within us can influence conditions like obesity. Moreover, the lack of consistent patterns in gut microbiome composition related to energy metabolism in previous human studies highlights the need for more research like the Kasetsart University study[4]. Understanding the specific roles of different microbes, including fungi, could lead to new dietary recommendations or therapeutic approaches to improve metabolism and manage body weight. In conclusion, the Kasetsart University study opens a new chapter in our understanding of the gut mycobiome's role in human health. It not only reinforces the importance of considering the fungal components of our microbiota but also suggests that the influence of these fungi on our metabolism is significant and complex, varying with the composition of the mycobiome. This research is a step forward in unraveling the intricate web of interactions within our gut and their broader implications for our health.



Main Study

1) Preliminary characterization of gut mycobiome enterotypes reveals the correlation trends between host metabolic parameter and diet: a case study in the Thai Cohort.

Published 9th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Commensal fungi in intestinal health and disease.


3) Metabolic and inflammatory profiles, gut microbiota and lifestyle factors in overweight and normal weight young thai adults.


4) Exploring the Influence of Gut Microbiome on Energy Metabolism in Humans.


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