Study: A Healthier Gut Could Mean More Muscular Strength

A healthy gut microbiome may have a relationship with muscular strength in older populations.

Actually absorbing the nutrients in protein and calories is really key when you’re looking to gain muscle. Think about it: what would be the point of drinking countless protein shakes and shoveling down plates of food if your body can’t reap all the benefits? 

This is where a recent study that was conducted in the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory at Boston’s Tufts University comes in. The study looked at two groups of older adults that differed in their percentage of whole body lean mass and physical functioning. The gut microbiome is the term for the trillions of bacteria that live in the digestive tract, helping to break down and absorb our food (along with other functions).

Microbiome Strength Study
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The two groups of older adults included 18 physically high-functioning adults and 11 low-functioning adults. The ages of the adults ranged between 70-85. Authors initially identified was that there are differences in the microbiome bacterial profiles between the two groups.

To evaluate the differences in these adults’ functioning levels, their gut microbiomes, and how they might relate to one another, mice were then brought into the research. Study authors inoculated mice with fecal samples from the two adult populations. Basically, germ-free mice were treated with fecal samples from the high and low-functioning adult groups, then had a 1-month follow-up to evaluate observed differences in strength and gut microbiome levels. 

press release about the study in Tufts Now reads,

Similar bacterial differences were present when mice were colonized with fecal samples from the two human groups, and grip strength was increased in mice colonized with samples from the high-functioning older adults, suggesting a role for the gut microbiome in mechanisms related to muscle strength in older adults.

Gut Bacteria and Strength Study
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In addition to an increase in grip strength, researchers found increased levels of Prevotellaceae, Prevotella, Barnesiella, and Barnesiella intestinihominis, which are allegedly good bacteria, in the more physically fit older adults and in the mice that were inoculated with the fecal samples from those adults.

[Related: 9 Ways to Absorb Your Nutrients More Effectively]

Michael Lustgarten, one of the author’s of this study, said in the press release: “If we were to conduct an intervention to increase Prevotella levels in the gut microbiome, we would expect to see an increase in muscle strength if these bacteria are involved. Prevotella’s role in the maintenance of muscle strength in older adults is one area we expect to continue to explore.”

Strength Study and Microbiome
Image courtesy Highpoint / Shutterstock

A healthy gut has also been suggested and linked to having lower levels of inflammation, better immunity, and possibly even better mental health. See our review of microbiome research for athletes to learn more.

While this study was small in nature – and there certainly needs to be more research performed on this topic before drawing conclusions – it does lean towards suggesting that gut microbiome and muscular strength seem to be connected. We’re excited to learn more as other studies and findings come from this one.

Featured image from Fotokvadrat/Shutterstock