Eat like a hunter-gatherer and you’ll be healthier—so goes the thinking behind so-called paleo diets. But a new study suggests that humans who live in industrialized societies don’t have the guts to stomach a real hunter-gatherer diet. Compared with hunter-gatherers, industrialized peoples’ intestines have fewer kinds of microbes—and are missing at least one major group of ancient bacteria. Yet even with all of these extra microbes, hunter-gatherers have fewer gut ailments, such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, and colon cancer.
Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria—collectively known as the microbiome—but it’s unclear how our diet impacts the composition of these tiny organisms. Some studies have detected differences in the types of gut bacteria in obese and thin people, for example, while others have shown that hunter-gatherers harbor more diverse gut bacteria than do people in the industrialized world—a difference that may protect preagricultural communities from Crohn’s disease and colon cancer.
In a new study published online in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers offers the first comprehensive look at the full-scale diversity of gut microbes in one group of hunter-gatherers and how the bacteria unique to them might function in their guts and affect their health. Anthropologist Cecil Lewis of the University of Oklahoma in Norman and his colleagues set out to detect differences in the core gut bacteria in hunter-gatherers and farmers in Peru, and compared them with residents of Norman. The researchers traveled by canoe upriver into the Amazon to study the diet and health of the Matses community, who are among the last hunter-gatherers in the world; they still hunt monkey, sloth, alligator, and other game, as well as gather wild tubers in the forest and fish in the rivers.
Read full, original article: Ancient bacteria found in hunter-gatherer guts