Can alcohol replace gut bacteria?
“You can think of this like dumping fertilizer in a garden,” said co-author Karsten Zengler, PhD, professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Bioengineering at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Jacobs School of Engineering, said. “The result is an explosion of imbalanced biological growth that benefits some species but doesn’t benefit others.”
Bernd Schnabl, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, is another co-author.
Acetate is a nutrient used in cellular metabolism and has a role in the regulation of appetite, energy expenditure, and immune response. In moderation, it promotes overall health, from improving heart function to boosting red blood cell production and memory function. In excess, it is associated with metabolic changes that are associated with disease, including cancer.
In the latest study, Zengler and colleagues fed mice a molecule that can be broken down into three acetates in the intestines of rodents. The researchers noted that the animals’ gut microbiota were altered by the acetate supplement in a manner similar to what they observed when alcohol was given to the rats, but without adverse effects on the livers of the animals. they.
“Chronic alcohol consumption is associated with lower expression of antibacterial molecules in the gut. People with alcohol-related liver disease often have bacterial overgrowth in the gut,” says Zengler. This finding suggests that microbial ethanol metabolism does not significantly contribute to gut microbiota disturbances (imbalance) and that acetate-altered microbiota does not play a major role in the gut microbiota. liver damage.”
“The situation is more complicated than previously assumed. It is not straightforward because more ethanol equates to changes in the microbiome, and therefore, dysbiosis equates to more liver disease. This present study does not translate into an imminent new treatment for alcoholic liver disease, but it will help determine the effect of acetate on the microbiome and help refine future research designs.”
The authors say the findings are important because they turn the investigation into whether “changes in the gut microbiome associated with daily ethanol consumption are important … and towards identifying bacteria as the cause of the harmful effects of alcohol consumption, rather than the side-effects of consumption or disease.”