As more and more research is done on bacteria, the importance of flourishing gut bacteria is becoming better known. Healthy bacteria in the gut can be the key to remaining healthy and warding off obesity. Less well studied is the role of gut fungi, which are not nearly as numerous as bacteria. Recent research looking at gut fungi, however, has indicated that the role of fungi may be just as important as bacteria.
Microbes in the gut play a role in the development of obesity, but exactly how is still not completely understood. While the importance of bacteria has begun to be appreciated, the role of fungi, and how they interact with bacteria, is not. Researchers have begun to perform studies on mice to figure out just how fungi act within the gut and what effect they might have on overall health.
Diet seems to have a major effect on gut microbes, both bacteria, and fungi. Researchers fed two groups of mice different diets to determine what effects diet might have on gut microbes. One group was fed a high-fat diet, the other was fed a standard diet. The mice fed the high-fat diet were found to have significantly different fungi and bacteria in their guts than mice fed the standard diet. The high-fat mice also gained more weight and had metabolic markers that were associated with obesity, such as increased insulin resistance. Researchers speculated that the high-fat diet led to changes in gut microbes that had an effect on obesity.
Whether that same effect will present itself in human beings is another question. The standard diet fed the mice contained 18% of calories from fat, versus 60% of calories from fat in the high-fat diet. Whether the source of fat plays a role in fungi makeup could also be a future topic of research.
One particularly interesting observation of the study was that Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used to brew beer, was much more abundant in the guts of lean mice versus fat mice, mirroring studies found in obese children, although why exactly that is the case is not understood. The study also found that food itself was not the source of most gut fungi, which leads to further questions as to how gut fungi make it into the gut, and whether gut fungi could also be influenced by various genetic or environmental factors.