Your personality may depend on what you eat

"Gut microbiome may be influencing the way you are, not just the way you are today," says Matthew Lee Smith. (Credit: Getty Images)

New research backs up the old adage, “you are what you eat.”

The new study suggests there are distinct bacteria and metabolomes associated with each personality trait.

“This reinforces many of the public health concepts related to nutrition and health,” says study author Matthew Lee Smith, associate professor in the environmental and occupational health department at Texas A&M University.

“Gut microbiome may be influencing the way you are, not just the way you are today. These findings are more suggestive than definitive, but they have contributed to our understanding of what gut health can do and how it makes people feel.”

Researchers studied the correlation between mental energy (ME), mental fatigue (MF), physical energy (PE), physical fatigue (PF), and the gut microbiome. They found that bacteria and metabolome associated with metabolism were associated with either mental or physical energy, while bacteria associated with inflammation were associated with mental or physical fatigue.

“What you eat determines the bacteria and the microbiome in your gut,” says lead author Ali Boolani, associate professor in the physical therapy department at Clarkson University. “With this study, we have made an exploratory link between a person’s microbiome and their mood.”

Fatigue is a known problem that contributes to poor work and school performance and can be attributed to many diseases and disorders among middle-aged and older adults, but it is a poorly understood problem.

When someone says they are fatigued, more often than not it is chalked up to a lack of energy. However, more recent evidence has shown that the two are not as connected, as we have previously been led to believe. Fatigue and energy are distinct moods, not necessarily opposites of one another.

One area that has been shown to contribute to fatigue is nutrition, or a lack thereof. Food is the biggest source of energy and a healthy diet can help combat some of the pitfalls associated with fatigue. However, it’s not the only factor.

For the study in the journal Nutrients, researchers studied a subset of individuals from a larger study that investigated the gut microbiome. Participants completed a brief survey that was used to identify potential correlations between gut microbiota and mental and physical energy and fatigue.

They found that the four traits, ME, MF, PE, and PF have unique, but overlapping gut bacteria profiles, suggesting a need to further explore the role of gut microbiota to understand long-standing feelings of energy and fatigue.

“We know that energy and fatigue can be influenced by so many things like what you eat, your physical activity, your sleep, your chronic conditions, or the medications you take for these conditions,” Smith says.

“Understanding how nutrition and malnutrition are linked to fatigue and energy is important because falls, chronic fatigue, and low-energy can diminish the health and quality of life for older adults living with chronic conditions.

“I think part of the fun here is looking at some of these relationships and being able to better see this interplay and how what you eat can influence these things,” he says.

Additional coauthors are from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the American Public University System; and Molecular Research LP.

Source: Texas A&M University