The typical image of rugby is of bruising encounters which leave the players needing a long soak in an ice bath afterwards.
However, a new study has shown that rugby, and other physical activity, boosts the diversity of gut microbes, known as microbiota.
According to researchers at University College York, reduced variation in microbiota is linked to obesity, while greater diversity is associated with a favourable metabolic profile.
They analysed samples from 40 rugby players and 46 men who were not athletes, but were of the same age and had the same physical size as the athletes. The comparison group was divided into two sub-groups – the first had body mass index of 25 or less, while the second had a BMI of 28 or more.
All participants were asked how much and how often they had eaten the 187 foods included in a questionnaire in the four weeks prior the study. They were also asked about their general activity levels.
The study revealed that athletes and rugby players had a better metabolic profile compared to men with higher body mass index in the comparison group.
Athletes had a wide range of good gut bacteria. More specifically, rugby players had higher proportions of Akkermansiaceae bacteria, which is known to be linked to lower rates of obesity and related metabolic disorders.
The research also revealed that the diet of rugby players consisted of more of all food groups, with protein accounting for 22% of their energy intake. The athletes ate more meat and meat products, fruit and vegetables and fewer snacks than the comparison group.
The researchers concluded that physical activity is an essential factor in the correlation between good gut bacteria, so if you want to help your tummy to feel fine, then why not join us in the treetops this weekend?