Marathon Runner's Poo Makes Mice Run Faster

A performance-enhancing microbe has been found in the poo of elite athletes, and it could help the rest of us.

Stool samples from 87 Olympians and 2015 Boston Marathon runners, from one week before and after their events, were tested for changes in microbiomes.

The study, which was published in Nature Medicine, found the athletes had a high level of the Veillonella genus bacteria after running the race.

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The team, lead by Harvard University researcher Jonathan Scheiman, then fed mice an isolated strain of the Veillonella atypica from the poo, and tested them on a treadmill.

It was found that mice who received the bacteria had their performance enhanced by 13 percent on the treadmill compared to mice who didn't receive Veillonella atypica.

The bacteria Veillonella breaks down lactic acid inside the digestive tract, making researchers believe it can help reduce pain during exercise -- lactic acid can cause muscle fatigue and soreness during intense exercise.

Veillonella breaks down the lactic acid, and creates a molecule called propionate, which is known to regulate blood pressure and boost the metabolism.

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“We were able to demonstrate that the Veillonella-driven performance boost was due to the bacteria’s ability to break down lactate... and to produce propionate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA), that in turn enhances the body’s resilience to exercise stress,” Aleksander Kostic, part of the research team, told the Havard Gazette.

Many of the researchers are involved in the sports biotechnology company FitBiomics, and hope the research can help create a probiotic to enhance the performances of athletes through their gut health.

“We hypothesised that the microbiomes of elite athletes must have highly adjusted bacterial species in common that could help with their performance and recovery, and that, once identified, these could become the basis of highly validated performance-enhancing probiotics,” said Scheiman.