A group of researchers from the University of Oklahoma are trying to understand the relationship between gut bacteria of ancient people (as preserved from archeological sites dating over 1000 years ago) to modern man. “The results support the hypothesis that ancient human gut microbiomes are more similar to those of non-human primates and rural non-western communities than to those of people living a modern lifestyle in the United States,” noted the researchers. “From these data, the team concluded that the last 100 years has been a time of major change to the human gut microbiome in cosmopolitan areas.”

This is not surprising, given the vast difference between the Standard American Diet (SAD) and a diet based on natural, whole foods, which is found in those living in rural areas of the world.

This research will likely spur more study into the evolution of the gut bacterial balance and how it relates to health. “Dietary changes, as well as the widespread adoption of various aseptic and antibiotic practices have largely benefitted modern humans, but many studies suggest there has been a cost, such as a recent increase in autoimmune related risks and other health states.” This concept is known as the hygiene hypothesis. Dr. Smith and I have blogged about it before.

The more we can understand the complex interactions occurring inside our own guts, the more we will be able to understand our health. It may take some piecing together before we really understand it all, but each new finding helps create a larger picture that gets us closer.