November 25, 2016

How sushi can change the way you eat

By Stuart Turner

Sushi is not only delicious but now scientists have found that it can change our genes to alter the way we digest food.

Some French marine biologists have found a substance in marine bacteria that breaks seaweed down into digestible pieces. By eating sushi wrapped in nori seaweed, it seems the Japanese and all other sushi lovers have also ingested these bacteria and the gene coding for that digestive enzyme.

The team from Universite Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) in Paris, made the discovery by chance while studying red algae known as Porphyra of which nori seaweed is a type. They discovered the new enzyme, porphyranase, from bacteria living on the seaweed that break down the algae. They looked through hundreds of gene databases to search for where this unique enzyme might occur and linked it to the gut bacteria of a group of Japanese people.

This means the Japanese digestive system has probably adapted to include this marine bacteria as a result of a sushi rich diet, especially since nori seaweed is dried but eaten raw. It is an amazing discovery as it proves that what we eat and how we prepare it can influence the biological processes for how we consume food.

So, eating sushi wrapped in seawed - maki, gunkanmaki, temaki cones - can change the way our bodies respond to what we eat. It is another great reason for investing a sushi making kit and eating a Japanese diet which is also healthy, low fat and full of vitamins and minerals.

This point was reiterated by American microbiologist, Professor Justin Sonnenburg who wrote an article to accompany the team's Nature paper. He said:  "Global travel and trade are providing unmatched access to new types of food and perhaps new microbes harbouring novel genes. So the next time you take a bite of an unfamiliar food, think about the microbial inhabitants you may also be ingesting, add the possibility that you will be providing one of your ten trillion closest friends with a new set of [digestive] utensils."

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