A new study published Dec. 14 in Nature suggests that differences in exercise performance in experimental mice may depend largely on the abundance of certain flora in the gut.
Researchers examined gene sequences, gut flora species, and blood metabolites in experimental mice.
They recorded the amount of exercise and endurance of the mice voluntarily on the spinning wheel each day.
Then they used machine learning methods to analyze the data with a view to broadly exploring the factors that influence exercise performance.
The results suggest that genes explain only a small part of the difference, while the role of gut flora is particularly important.
When mice were given broad-spectrum antibiotics, their motor performance deteriorated by nearly half.
The researchers found that Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus in the mice’s intestines produce fatty acid amides.
This metabolite stimulates the endocannabinoid receptor CB1 on the intestinal nerve, leading to increased dopamine release in the ventral striatum during exercise.
The ventral striatum is a key node in the brain’s reward and motivation network.
Therefore higher dopamine concentrations in this region during exercise may be responsible for the increased willingness to exercise.
If this gut-brain pathway is also present in humans, it may be possible in the future to improve the willingness to run in the general population and improve athletes’ performance through a low-cost and safe dietary approach.