Can fiber help gut bacteria fight antibiotic resistance?

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Eating more fiber could be the key to less antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the gut. Alba Vitta/Stocksy
  • Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, and researchers are still discovering more about its importance.
  • Antibiotic resistance has become a growing problem in recent years, increasing the risk of serious diseases and limiting treatment options.
  • A recent study found that increasing dietary fiber from different food sources could help reduce antibiotic resistance in the gut.

Antimicrobial Resistance is a growing problem. It happens when microorganisms like bacteria adapt in such a way that antibiotics cannot kill them. People can have more severe infections and diseases as antibiotic resistance increases. Experts are working to understand why antibiotic resistance occurs and how it can be reduced.

A study published in mBio investigated the influence of the fiber on antimicrobial resistance.

Researchers found that a varied diet high in fiber was associated with lower antimicrobial resistance in gut bacteria.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, fiber is a carbohydrate that the body doesn’t digest well. However, fiber is essential for a healthy gut. There are two main types of fibers:

  • Soluble Fiber dissolves in water and provides the body with some nutrients.
  • Insoluble dietary fiber provides no nutrients, but helps the body in other ways.

Fiber offers a variety of health benefits to the body. For example, it helps clear buildup in the gut, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer. All types of fiber also help increase feelings of fullness, helping people eat appropriate amounts of food.

However, the benefits of fiber can go further than health experts have discovered.

Antimicrobials are drugs that doctors use to treat infections caused by microorganisms. One of the most common examples would be antibiotics, which doctors use to treat bacterial infections. Sometimes “antimicrobial” and “antibiotic” can be used interchangeably CDC.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria or other microorganisms adapt to become resistant to the effects of antibiotics.

The body houses trillions of microbes, or bacteria, collectively known as the microbiome.

In recent years, the problem of antibiotic resistance has increased, leading to serious illness and even death. Many groups and organizations have drawn attention to the problem, including the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition. The group explained in a recent Facebook post:

“A study in The Lancet recently found that of the 1.27 million deaths directly attributed to antibiotic resistance (AMR) in 2019, 73% were caused by just six pathogens. This is why it is so important that everyone is aware of AMR and takes steps to understand more about it and prevent it.”

However, there are many unknowns about how diet might affect antibiotic resistance, and this relationship was something the researchers in the current study wanted to explore.

In the study, the researchers examined the diets of over 250 participants and also the genes of the gut microbiome of these participants. In particular, they looked for antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs).

The study participants were healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 66 and the majority of the participants were white. The researchers found that there was great diversity in the composition and abundance of ARGs in this relatively small population.

The researchers collected data from the participants, including diet, physical activity and blood samples. Participants provided stool samples so researchers could study the genetic make-up of participants’ gut microbiomes.

The researchers discovered that “individuals who ate a varied diet that was high in fiber and low in animal protein had fewer antibiotic resistance genes.”

Study author Dr. Danielle G. Lemay explained her findings Medical news today.

“We found that people who eat a more diverse diet with more soluble fiber have lower numbers of antimicrobial resistance genes in their gut microbiomes. Therefore, a varied diet high in soluble fiber potentially reduces the risk of antibiotic-resistant infection.”
– dr Danielle G Lemay

There are limitations to the current study. Due to its observational nature, no cause could be established and it relied on self-reported dietary data.

according to dr Lemay, more research is needed on the impact of animal proteins on ARG and to evaluate the effects of participants’ use of antibiotics or other treatments that may have contributed to the detection of ARG.

dr Lemay further explained:

“In the study, we examined people in a snapshot. What we need to do in the future is a study where we feed people a varied diet high in soluble fiber to see if we can reduce the antimicrobial resistance of their gut bacteria.”

Overall, however, the results of this study are encouraging as it links simple nutritional steps to reducing health problems such as antibiotic resistance.

If further research confirms these results, dietary recommendations could shift. If people change their diet, we might even see a decrease in antibiotic resistance.


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