Science shorts: The gut microbiome and its links with brain, cardiometabolic health and more

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The gut-brain axis and cardiometabolic health in our latest scientific news round-up

Related tags gut-brain axis Caffeine Gestational diabetes

This round-up looks at the latest health and nutrition research, including the role of the gut microbiome and its links with brain and cardiometabolic health, how glycine supplementation before bedtime has shown to improve sleep quality, and how vitamin B12 insufficiency is linked with a higher risk of gestational diabetes.
A ‘chicken or the egg’ situation: More research needed on whether gut dysbiosis affects the brain or vice versa

Research on the gut-brain axis is growing, but it is still a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation when it comes to whether it is gut dysbiosis that affects brain health or vice versa.

Dr Chakrapani P. S., honorary director at the Centre for NeuroScience and assistant professor at the Department of Biotechnology, Cochin University of Science and Technology, who specialises in the research of neuroscience and the gut-brain axis, pointed out the above in the latest episode of our Nutrachampion podcast.

He said that alterations to the gut microbiome were observed in models studying brain damage that occurred due to accidents or Parkinson’s Disease. Similarly, gut dysbiosis could also affect the brain, but it remains unclear whether it is gut dysbiosis that affects brain health or vice versa, he said.

“What happens in the gut, does not stay in the gut”: Why fibre, protein intake affects cardiometabolic health​  

The types of dietary fibre and protein consumed could affect gut microbiome and the risk of developing cardiometabolic diseases, emerging scientific evidence has shown.

Kazuyuki Kasahara, assistant professor of Metabolic, Nutrition, and Microbiome Medicine, at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, pointed out the above during his presentation at the Growth Asia Summit.

His research out of his Kasahara Lab has showed that a high dietary fibre diet could protect against atherosclerosis by promoting the colonisation of Roseburia intestinalis – ​an anaerobic, gram-positive bacterium that breaks down dietary fibre and produces butyrate in the colon.

Glycine supplementation before bedtime improves sleep quality and alertness – review

The supplementation of the amino acid glycine before bedtime has shown to improve sleep quality, alertness and reduce fatigue in healthy populations, according to findings of a recent review conducted by researchers from Singapore.

Writing in GeroScience, ​they reviewed 50 human clinical studies which examined the effects of glycine supplementation on multiple health areas, such as the endocrine, metabolic, nervous, cardiovascular, and immune system.

A key finding was that glycine supplementation at three grams per day at 30 mins to one hour before bedtime could improve sleep quality, alertness, cognition, and decreased fatigue and sleepiness.

Caffeine’s role in sports: Timing of intake subject to significant debate - researcher

There is currently significant debate taking place over the timing for athletes to consume caffeine and reap the most benefits, a leading sports science researcher has pointed out.

Existing studies showed that caffeine supplementation could improve performance in sports, such as sprint performance when playing ball games, as well as reduce pain and increase adrenaline levels.

However, it is debatable whether caffeine should be given an hour before the start of an exercise, or closer to the start of an exercise to achieve the most benefits, associate Professor Stephen Burns from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University National Institute of Education’s Physical Education and Sports Science Academic Group said.

Don’t just look at folic acid: Vitamin B12 insufficiency linked with higher risk of gestational diabetes

Prenatal nutrition supplement should look beyond the importance of folic acid, as insufficiency in other micronutrients such as vitamin B12, is linked with a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

This is according to findings from two large-scale birth cohort studies, namely the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) and Singapore PREconception Study of long-Term maternal and child Outcomes (S-PRESTO).

Findings from S-PRESTO showed that women with high folic concentration and vitamin B12 insufficiency had a higher risk of gestational diabetes, Dr Jun Shi Lai, senior research fellow at Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, pointed out during her presentation at the Growth Asia Summit.

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