Posting in Energy
Researchers have discovered that Japanese have a special bacteria in their guts to help them digest sushi, but Americans don't.
Apparently, only the guts of Japanese people have bacteria that digest the seaweed wrapped so tightly around the oh-so-delicious sushi. And North Americans don't.
Universite Pierre et Marie Curie researchers announced in Nature that they've discovered an enzyme that can breakdown seaweed. And it just so happens that the bacteria that makes this enzyme is also predominantly found the guts of Japanese people.
When the seaweed chomping bacteria called Bacterioides plebeius breaks down the starch, the person benefits by getting more energy. Unfortunately, people who don't have the gut bacteria won't reap the same nutritional benefits from the seaweed.
Evolutionarily speaking, the Japanese did have a head start. They began eating sushi in the 8th century. Today sushi is still a large part of their diet: The average Japanese person eats 14.2g of seaweed a day.
The scientists detected the bacteria when they were testing the genetic makeup of the bugs found on Porophyra seaweed. Surprisingly, the same eleven genes found in the bugs on the seaweed were also detected in the bacteria isolated from the guts of Japanese people. And none were found in the guts of Americans.
The scientists reckon it is possible that the marine genes swapped genetic information with gut bacteria to make it easier for the Japanese to digest the food. That way, the carbohydrate active enzymes, or CAZymes, could breakdown the polysaccharides found in plants. The researchers wrote in Nature:
This indicates that seaweeds with associated marine bacteria may have been the route by which these novel CAZymes were acquired in human gut bacteria, and that contact with non-sterile food may be a general factor in CAZyme diversity in human gut microbes.
Gut bacteria provide essential enzymes to our bodies, to make up for the genetic material the human genome might lack. Good thing our stomachs are stocked with incredibly diverse bacteria. In fact, we have trillions of microbes in our gut that help us digest food — making it clear why we might have a love/hate relationship with exotic dishes.
Image: flickr/ lighto
Updated: I wasn't careful with my use of language, so I made some clarifications. I apologize for the confusion.
Apr 7, 2010
I knew this blog post was existed someplace. Thanks to post such articles. Will unquestionably be using it very soon.
I think the topic pool chosen generates interest but the reporting seems consistently troubling in delivery, analysis, and interpretation. Hope that it improves. Mutton to see here people, moo along please.
Folks who are "carrying on" about the journalism in this article: Take a multi vitamin A.S.A.P. Make sure it contains at least 3 mg of Copper. In a few days time, your blood vessels should be better prepared to handle the aneurism you may soon be giving yourselves over this article. Take a deep breath and ask yourselves: How will any of this effect the universe in thirty thousand years ? How about three thousand years ? How about three years ? Same answer. Relax.If you took the vitamin: You're a sheep.
but they have no lack of pomposity that allows them to personally attack anything and everything that doesn't quite fit their definition of the world. Leave Boonsri alone, you morons!
I really like Japanese food, especially sushi and sashimi; too bad I'm not getting the full nutritional benefit from the seaweed. =)
Having done my fair share of writing for the public, I can say without a doubt that there are many times when my writing quality varies greatly, from issues with my wireless keyboard, to lost concentration, to just plain forgetting the correct word for what I want to say... I read this and while slightly disappointed in the misleading title, I understood what was said as it was meant to be understood and had no problem with the way it was written. it was informative and if you paid enough attention there were context clues that cleared up my misunderstandings. While you do not have genes that produce bacteria for your "gut" you do have genes that affect the degree of which your body can use certain nutrients that come from your digested foods. There is a tiny part of the article that states the Japanese have these genes because they have been consuming significant amounts of seaweed since the 8th century, so their body has adapted to the constant influx of the nutrients being in their system with the help of the microorganisms that live on non-sterile seaweed. So, yes the article is about genes, and because the type of seaweed referenced in the article is primarily used with sushi, the title is really correct in generalizing the statements of the article into something catchy. Which is the point of journalism, to get the readers attention, and then provide the information that you want them to know in a clear and concise manner. And one for the flamers... I ask you to go find a Japanese American and ask them if they consider them selves to be at least part Japanese and I am sure they will say yes (unless they were exiled!!) and then you will know who all is included in the term "Japanese". The term Japanese is used in this article to refer to those people who's ancestors came from the area of the world commonly referred to as Japan, where this specific organism resides upon this specific type of seaweed, that is commonly used in that area to produce what is commonly referred to as "sushi" so go find a nice long bamboo poll, sit on it, and rotate. (and yes Boonsri is very attractive, I cannot argue that statement, although the terminology used was a bit offensive)
Thank you for your comments. You were right. The errors have been fixed. As for all the American comments, the Nature paper states: "Our comparative gut metagenome analyses show that porphyranases and agarases are frequent in the Japanese population6 and that they are absent in metagenome data from North American individuals."
I propose a darn good spanking for Boonsri. I must point out that I am not basing my decision on the contents of this article.
"Apparently, only the guts of Japanese people have ... And we don?t." Um, who is "we" here? Are we excluding any Japanese people who might want to read this? " ... none were found in the guts of Americans." So, this is about Japanese as opposed to Americans ... so where do Japanese Americans fit? Are all Americans the same (or for that matter, all Japanese)? I think the author needs to brush up on her racially/culturally inclusive language lest she alienate parts of her global audience.
Sorry for saying the stock picture was 'sashimi', that was lame. I've eaten it enough of it to know better. I think it's called 'nigiri'. A google image search confirms that but maybe I got it wrong again :) @Jdat30: I'd say sorry but I even signed up for an account there to post my comment so I have to own up to the fact that I really wanted to say something :) I'm glad there are plenty of passionate people reading this blog.
"SmartPlanet.com is the place to go for..." cliches. OK, I enjoyed the article--always enjoy eating local foods wherever I am. I want more bacteria in my stomach, so, sushi, sashimi, baloney, tahini all sound good to me. Add some good local booze and one's where one should be, healthier for the experience. By the way, whoever brought in the Chinese characters for sushi should have stayed out of it. The Chinese term is a simple transliteration into Chinese characters--a sound alike, that is all. No meaning can be derived from it. Traditionally, the Chinese would probably call dishes made with raw fish "yu sheng" (??). Nowadays young people in China just use the sound alike shousi (??) for sushi.
As trained medical tech I have a couple of things to say having read the article and the link above. Which has quotes from one of the researcher involved in the project. Ms Dickinson maybe has got herself confused or it has been sub by somebody how has made no attempt to understand what the research is about. By suggesting the "American" gene does not have the right bacteria really skews the research. Bacteria evolves in the gut. The bacteria is not associated with the human gene it is an environmental factor. The original Nature article finally points this out at the end. I also find this "American" term frustrating. The North American population is a group of races. That coincidentally also include the Japanese. I would like to suggest that if research was done on some of the inhabitants of coastal villages around the UK and France similar findings will be made. They will have the enzyme as they also include seaweed in their diet. Seaweed straight from the sea that has not been sterilised. I also wonder if the Inuit may well have the Bacterioides plebeius as they consumed Kelp. But that is another story. What I have read leads me to believe that research project is narrow and really doesn't tell us the whole story.
I agree with many of the substantive critique(s) of this article, but if the pic to the left is really Ms. Dickinson, I'd let her tattoo the whole article on my chest. She's hot.
An artical like this should not be written from the gut, but, rather based on scientific data. I'm not Japanese, but digest sushi just fine. You are hereby sentenced to 1000 hrs of home work. No apology need!
Many have nothing to do other than pick apart this document. Felt compelled to be arrogant and condescending as well. Already aware I am imperfect, though many respondents think they are omniscient. Why does one demand accuracy, but not deliver it themselves. Get a mirror, a dictionary, and proofread. Another person reviewing the document prior to posting is wise. Most posts have some deficiency, whether it is grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Just review the excerpts below. 4 p79 ?It should read, people who don't have the bacteria in their gut microflora won't received the added nutritional benefit from the seaweed? [Read aloud and let me know how poorly that was written.] 10 NormInCanada ?As far as I know "American" is not a race. Did the writer perhaps mean to speak about European descedended USA citizens? How did this silly, and as others have pointed out, poorly written article come to be published on a supposedly reputable forum?? [As far as you know descended is descedended. Did the above mean to refer to American citizens of European descent? As far as poorly written goes?] 11 Greenman76 ?Sushi is vinagered rice, not raw fish or seaweed. Sounds like she read the Nature article and tried to put it in her own words. At least no one can accuse her of plagerizing.? Reporters are supposed to have their facts straight and Boonsri obviously does not.? [Speaking of facts and straight; vinegared, plagiarizing] 12 p79 ?the problem is the blatant miss-information [misinformation] stating humans have genes that produce bacterial. [bacterial what? Perhaps simply bacteria] 16 rberman ?And I say "story" in it's more-or-less meaning as an amusing anecdote, because it surely ain't news.? Maybe you should work for 17 or Tiger Beat or something where making sense isn't important.? [ain?t? Now that you can find in 17] 18 Dr_Zinj ?jlb27 doesn't know what flaming is. If Ms Dickinson were making her comments in private; then I'd be glad to say nothing. [doubtful] Perosnal ignorance doesn't need public correction. However, when someone posts such egregiously wrong information, such a blatant distortion of the original article, and exposes themselves as being totally ignorant of the subject matter; it is incumbent upon all knowledgeable people to immediately apply corrective criticism. I hold reporters to a simple standard: their reports are required to be accurate, brief, and concise. And accuracy comes before everything else. Accuracy = Truth. Inaccuracy = Lies. The subject article was inaccurate, therefore Ms Dickenson lied.? [Here is a public correction for you: Perosnal-> Personal? So much for accuracy. He holds himself to a different standard. Just applying corrective criticism. Try to spell her name the same way twice. His post was inaccurate, therefore Dr_Zinj lied. And he knows what flaming means] 20 NaomiH ?New-borns [Newborns. Delivered a few, they demand they not be hyphenated] and people who have taken strong antibiotics [actually dependent on antibiotic class and duration] don't have them,? This is a long post. That's because you can't explain something like this in a couple of snappy phrases or a compressed headline without GETTING IT WRONG!? [Absolutely. You should have taken your time.] After reading these posts, this was my first and last visit. (Too many perfect people) As for you Nocturnal67, I blame you, you started it. [:)
As this topic was clearly covered by NPR yesterday 4/7 (no I didn't say plagiarized, but you thought it :-P), you'd think the author of this article could cover the correct info. See this NPR article: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125675700&ft=1&f=1007
Doesn't CBS/ZDNet/whoever even have requirements for people writing science stories? Sad . . . . You need to take some basic biology classes . . .
No, you are just plain wrong. While Chinese characters can often have multiple meanings in isolation, they do not have unlimited meanings, nor do they, when used in concert with others, have the type of vagueness you are suggesting. They impart meaning to the words in much the same way as roman letters. While it is true that the underlying meaning of the characters imparts certain overtones, and poetic undertones to a given word, they do not change the overall meaning all that much. In particular, "sushi" is NOT a generic term for sashimi, nigiri, maki, etc.. The OP was correct. Sushi is a food item consisting of wrapped, vinegared rice. Period. It is NOT sashimi, which is JUST raw fish. Raw fish in isolation is NOT sushi. Raw fish WITH rice is NOT sashimi. If there is no rice it is not sushi, regardless of what kanji the Japanese use to write it.
In my post above, I attempted to insert Chinese characters, which work on my computer, but apparently not in this forum... so wherever you see a '?' please imagine a Kanji (Hanzi) symbol : )
Just two more things: 1. The Japanese word 'sushi', uses the Chinese characters ? (shou) and ? (si) and is one of those terms that holds many different meanings, not simply 'rice' or 'fish'. Anyone at all familiar with Japanese culture knows that this is a generic term used to cover the more developed categories of sashimi, maki, nigiri, etc. The origin and intitial use of the word is unclear, though the definition of the Chinese characters is strictly 'long life' and 'to control' respectively, though this combination of characters is not used in Chinese except to refer to the Japanese word 'sushi'. I have read that the term could be defined as 'hand food' or 'handheld things', which may be accurate as the radical for (hand) ? is used to write ?, but I believe this is not certain. All of this leads me to my second point... 2. While I agree that this article is both poorly researched, poorly written, and full of spelling errors, it is ironic that most of the people criticizing the writer also make unresearched statements (ie: SUSHI IS RICE) and also fail to spell things correctly. I thank Ms. Dickinson for posting the interesting information, and would simply encourage her to work on her writing skills.
Read her other articles before making a blanket statement! Everyone is entitled to have an "off day!" Dave
It sounds like this article is total garbage. It's all based on the fact that genes from the bacteria found on seaweed is found in the Japanese and not in other people. Most likely that means the bacteria are ingested by the Japanese when they eat seaweed which may or may not help them digest seaweed. When they tested Americans did they test those who eat sushi? If not they should have. It sounds more like what is happening is the seaweed contains bacteria that produce enzymes that assists in the digestion of seaweed. As Japanese eat a lot of sushi - frequently with seaweed - therefore they ingest the bacteria and the enzymes they produce.
Okay, Mz. Dickinson is just so darn cute I'm happy to let her say just about anything she wants. Heck, I never knew "Americans" were a race -- but she can keep on saying it -- now where's the video.
This is very depressing -- not the research, but the way it's been reported and is morphing into an urban myth. Please note: 1. NOBODY has genes which produce bacteria: bacteria are living organisms and have their own genes. 2. microbiota. specifically the bacteria in your, are acquired from the food you eat -- and are essential to your ability to digest it properly. New-borns and people who have taken strong antibiotics don't have them, and need to (re)acquire them before attempting to digest food (other than breast-milk for the babies). 3. The bacteria discussed in this research can digest the seaweed (sometimes) used in sushi, because they have the genes to produce the necessary enzymes. 4. People who eat a lot of sushi (or other seaweed containing food) will gradually acquire these bacteria in their gut and thus get more nutrition from the seaweed they eat. 5. It has nothing to do with your ethnicity, and a person of "caucasian" descent who eats sushi frquently will doubtless end up with the same useful extra bacteria as anyone else (Japanese or otherwise) who does so. 6. This is a long post. That's because you can't explain something like this in a couple of snappy phrases or a compressed headline without GETTING IT WRONG! This not intended as any sort of a flame -- just an attempt at clearing things up. N
If Ms Dickinson were making her comments in private; then I'd be glad to say nothing. Perosnal ignorance doesn't need public correction. However, when someone posts such egregiously wrong information, such a blatant distortion of the original article, and exposes themselves as being totally ignorant of the subject matter; it is incumbent upon all knowledgeable people to immediately apply corrective criticism. I hold reporters to a simple standard: their reports are required to be accurate, brief, and concise. And accuracy comes before everything else. Accuracy = Truth. Inaccuracy = Lies. The subject article was inaccurate, therefore Ms Dickenson lied.
HuH?? She talks about people having genes to produce bacteria?? Didn't she even go to high school biology? She also appears to be ignorant of the difference between seaweed and sushi (fish!) Terrible article.
As entertainment, this is passable. The title is of course not even vaguely accurate and has a poor correlation to the story. And I say "story" in it's more-or-less meaning as an amusing anecdote, because it surely ain't news. Others have pointed out the gaffs. Ms Dickinson - please, you're no science writer. Maybe you should work for 17 or Tiger Beat or something where making sense isn't important.
I agree that the title is misleading but the story was interesting nonetheless. There's something to be said about the sensationalism in journalism that often bends the truth for something people would find more interesting to read. If the article had read "Americans lack the genes to digest seaweed" I imagine it would have gotten significantly fewer readers. I certainly can't say I would have read it. Boonsri- did the study indicate ethnic diversity in the study subjects? -Bahamude
WTH? Sushi is RICE. The article title is misleading. Even taken out of context it is flat out wrong. Miss Dickinson, please revisit (or take) the class called "Journaliztic Integrity 101"
@p79, yes and no, I believe she put it in the most basic of tems people can understand. microbiota is in essence a bacteria that is produced in the "gut".
@paulirock "So the article IS about the genes in the Japanese that CAN utilize the energy of the seaweed" The article is about genes, but the problem is the blatant miss-information stating humans have genes that produce bacterial.
Sushi is vinagered rice, not raw fish or seaweed. Sounds like she read the Nature article and tried to put it in her own words. At least no one can accuse her of plagerizing. @jlb27 I wouldn't call this flaming. They are pointing out the obvious problems in what is supposed to be a science news article. Reporters are supposed to have their facts straight and Boonsri obviously does not.
As far as I know "American" is not a race. Did the writer perhaps mean to speak about European descedended USA citizens?. Talk about comparing apples to oranges. What about "Japanese Americans"? Do they lose this ability when they take citizenship or are born in the USA? How did this silly, and as others have pointed out, poorly written article come to be published on a supposedly reputable forum?
@Nocturnal67 Actually, the stock picture is sushi, the sashimi is without rice! You are talking about the "maki" oe rolls. But as p79 said (and the article) When the seaweed chomping bacteria called Bacterioides plebeius breaks down the starch, the person benefits by getting more energy. Unfortunately, people who don?t have the genes to produce the bacteria won?t reap the same nutritional benefits from the seaweed. So the article IS about the genes in the Japanese that CAN utilize the energy of the seaweed.
Seriously didn't your parents teach you that if you don't have anything good to say, then don't say it all. You people should stop flaming!
If I were Boonsri's managing editor I'd either dock her pay for the day, or seriously consider firing her over this posting.
Actually "Noctural" the photo is not Sashimi, it is Sushi. Shashimi has no rice, it is simply the slices of raw fish.
ZDNet Tech Update e-newsletter features this story and links to this page. And why is this a tech story? CBS efforts to drive traffic from product to product are wearing me out.
This article is very poorly written. Humans do not "produce bacteria." Gut microflora is acquired through what you eat and the environment you live in. It should read, people who don't have the bacteria in their gut microflora won't received the added nutritional benefit from the seaweed.
Oh, interestingly enough the stock photo next to the article shows a piece of sashimi which doesn't have seaweed and thus is completely irrelevant! Might as well show a hamburger.
This is very poorly written, sorry. My biggest gripes: - gut bacteria aren't part of your genes. The title of the article is plain wrong. It's the gut bacteria themselves (not the person whos gut they are in) that picked up genes from seaweed. - all this talk about sushi but what it's really about is seaweed. Sushi is often eaten without seaweed and seaweed is often eaten without raw fish. Again the title is plain wrong. This is not about digesting sushi, it's about digesting seaweed. Really seaweed is a rather inconsequential ingredient in some sushi. The majority of the calories comes from rice, fish and other ingredients. Seaweed is snacked on by itself. Go visit an Asian super market and see how many different types of seaweed you can buy. Most of it is not suitable for rolling into maki. I mean, come on!