Thursday 22 March 2018

Rugby stars have 'exceptional' guts – that help prevent obesity

Rob Kearney
Rob Kearney
Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

THE Irish rugby team has exceptional guts even though many of them would be veering on clinical obesity, according to a new scientific study.

All that exercise and healthy eating by Brian O'Driscoll and the boys has paid off, resulting in a much more diverse range of microbes in the stomach than in the average man on the street.

And that's good news for them because those with a less varied range of flora in their gut are more likely to be plagued by disease and obesity.

The Irish squad for the last Rugby World Cup took part in a study by the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork and Teagasc Food Research Centre, which compared the likes of Rob Kearney, Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara with a control group of more ordinary punters.

Interestingly the players on the team had an average Body Mass Index of 29.1 – which would be deemed overweight, veering on obese, for the general population who are advised to keep their BMI under 25.

"Some of the players would actually have been deemed clinically obese, but the difference is that with them it's down to high muscle mass rather than fat," said report co-author Dr Paul Cotter.

But this wasn't because of any spare tyres, as the waist-hip ratios of the 40 rugby players had all been good and this was a better measure of health for these exceptional individuals than BMI.

That means there was no excuse for the general public to think they could get away with having a similarly high BMI to these highly trained elite athletes, said Dr Cotter.

The study published in the international journal 'Gut' this week found that exercise and dietary changes influenced gut microbial diversity.

"This is the first report that exercise increases microbial diversity in humans. While we and others have previously shown that diet influences microbial diversity, we can now report that protein consumption, in particular, positively correlates with microbial diversity," the study found.

Irish Independent

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