Bacteria in the gut may be responsible for food cravings

(ORDO NEWS) — Food cravings are hard to overcome and sometimes understand. Why do you crave chocolate cake, pickles or cheese at a particular moment of the day?

Sometimes this craving makes sense. For example, associations with food and memory can be especially strong, so if you’re heading to the cinema, you might want popcorn.

Other times, stress and anxiety can lead to cravings. Cortisol is a stress hormone that makes us crave sugary or salty foods.

According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, our own gut microbiomes may also play a critical role in shaping what we crave, suggesting what we want to eat may not necessarily be our choice.

The theory behind gut microbiomes and cravings isn’t exactly new, though it’s never been explored in depth before, let alone in an animal the size of a mouse.

To test these theories, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh colonized 30 different mice with gut bacteria from three species of three wild rodents.

All three wild mice ate different diets, so the goal was to see how or if these different microbial mixtures changed the feeding behavior of the mice.

Overall, the researchers found that the microbiomes of mice with new bacteria from each of three different wild rodents changed what they ate, highlighting the link between gut and food choice.

So what is behind this theory? It all has to do with how the gut and brain communicate. They constantly communicate with each other about what they need and do not need.

However, gut microbes can intercept some of these messages and alter the messages sent between the gut and the brain.

Tryptophan in particular helps convey feelings of satiety or satisfaction after a meal. It is also interesting that mice with different microbiomes had different levels of tryptophan because the bacteria in their intestines could produce it.

While the researchers highlight that this particular amino acid may play a critical role in how our gut tells the brain we’re hungry, gut-brain communication is complex and needs further study.


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