Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 242
  1. Hunter-Gatherers Don't Need Probiotics

    Gut reaction.

    The Hadza have a diverse array of gut bacteria—and don't suffer from colon diseases.


    Probiotics are a rapidly growing product in the food industry, added to foods to restore the "natural balance" of organisms in our intestines. But not everyone needs them: The Hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, lack a gut bacterium that is a key ingredient in most probiotic foods, a new study finds. What's more, the Hadza don't suffer from colon diseases found in humans eating modern diets in Western nations. Those diseases are associated with less diversity in gut bacteria, called the microbiome.

    The new study is the first to report on the gut bacteria of hunter-gatherers. An international team collected and sequenced DNA from the bacteria in fecal samples from 27 Hadza. Compared with Italians, the Hadza have a more diverse microbiome, the team reports online this week in Nature Communications—although they completely lack Bifidobacterium, a type of bacteria commonly added to probiotic drinks that is associated with dairy products, which the Hadza do not consume.

    "We must redefine our notions of what is considered healthy and unhealthy, since these distinctions are clearly dependent on diet," says Alyssa Crittenden, a nutritional anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and lead author of the study.

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