This Science Mystery Reminds Us: A Balanced Lifestyle Matters

Just as human communication problems often fuel the conflicts portrayed in books, movies, and in real life, communication issues inside our body can lead to internal conflicts that show up as symptoms.

The importance of internal messaging is why scientists are now studying the dialogue, or “crosstalk” that goes on inside us.

There is, for instance, an important communication setup between glucose metabolism, gut microbes, and the immune system. A disruption in this setup can actually lead to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, according to Oregon State University researchers.

An Internal Mystery

The investigative drama that took place in the Oregon laboratory* involved tracking immune system “agents” called IFN-y. As an immune system mediator, IFN-y proteins protect the body from invaders and infection. However, when IFN-y levels go down, the body’s glucose metabolism improves.

What, wondered the intrepid researchers, is the mysterious informant linking immune system IFN-y activity, and the body’s metabolic ability to process glucose? They searched for a connection.

As in many who-done-it stories the illusive go-between was found blending in with a local population. The missing messenger turned out to be Akkermansia muciniphila, bacteria that have survived eons of evolution to dwell in the guts of mice and men. Whether A. muciniphila works alone or has accomplices is unknown, but chances are many other gut bacteria have their own unique missions to carry out.

The discovery of A. muciniphila’s role was a surprising plot twist. “Before this, no one had a clue exactly how IFN-y affected glucose tolerance,” said study author, Andrey Morgun, OSU assistant professor. “The involvement of microbes had not really been considered.”

Wobble and Balance

Most good tales stir both awe and discretion, and this laboratory narrative is no exception. It’s fascinating to realize a tiny intestinal microbe is nature’s courier between two important body systems. It’s also unsettling that a disruption of the A. muciniphila population could compromise the internal cross-talk between immune and metabolic processes.

So, while it’s amazing to see that our body is a masterwork of mind-boggling complexity, we also are reminded that balance matters. Our daily mix of diet, activity, emotions, thoughts, sleep, and relaxation affects the equilibrium of all our body’s systems, and the disequilibrium of one system can trigger problems in others.

Fortunately, the act of maintaining balance allows for considerable wobbling, so we don’t have to strive for perfection. We can relax, enjoy our lives, and let the need for inner equilibrium inspire us to make wise lifestyle choices most of the time.

Source: Science Daily

* This study took place using laboratory mice; human studies to follow.

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