Not sure if you are a fan of sushi – it is a bit of an acquired taste and turns out you also need to “acquire” the machinery to digest it.
What the hell is sushi ?
Hopefully you’re not a cultural neaderthal and know what it looks like i.e. little “fishy” rolls. But maybe, you’ve never actually asked the question – what organism is contained in this Japanese delicacy ?
Sushi is in fact algae, not the kind that turns the fish pond a slimy green colour, but its “red” cousin.
Red algae are mainly composed a polysaccharide called porphyran.
The molecule is a good source of energy but humans don’t produce the enzyme, known as porphyranase, which is needed to break down the molecule.
Bacteria to the rescue
Bacteria living in the sea need this enzyme to make sure they get enough to eat, so it is common in marine bacteria.
But a bacteria living in the gut of a human being really doesn’t need it – unless of course the human you are living in is routinely eating sushi.
You need to eat sushi to “eat” sushi
A recent study analyzed the microbiota (bacteria living in the gut) of 13 Japanese individuals and 18 North Americans.
Only the Japanese had bacteria capable of munching porphyran. Japanese people have been enjoying sushi snacks for generations and during that time their gut bacteria have somehow “picked up the gene” or maybe they’ve “picked up” a few very special gut residents.
NOTE: It is estimated that the average human has 1000 different species of bacteria living in their gut. We haven’t actually been formerly introduced to most of them because they cannot survive in the laboratory. But we do know, they’re more than just passengers on the ship, they have an impact on our overall health and well being.
So another example of practice makes perfect….
The more you practice eating sushi, the better it will taste – at least to the residents of your gut.Transfer of carbohydrate-active enzymes from marine bacteria to Japanese gut microbiota. Nature, 2010; 464 (7290): 908Jan-Hendrik Hehemann, Gaëlle Correc, Tristan Barbeyron, William Helbert, Mirjam Czjzek, Gurvan Michel.
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