Elite athlete says he was 'saved' by Bifidobacteria

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | AllenKayaa
Getty | AllenKayaa

Related tags Probiotic Sports nutrition

Professional footballer Yuto Nagatomo has spoken out about how a ‘Bifidobacteria Training’ programme changed his gut microbiota leading to improvements in his digestive system and his speed of recovery.

Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd.​, Japanese pioneer in bifidobacteria and gut microbiota research, launched its ‘Bifidobacteria Training’ project in June 2020 in an aim to encourage athletes to incorporate bifidobacteria into their existing routine.

Footballer Nagatomo started taking Morinaga Milk's bifidobacteria in powder form (the dosage, product name, and strain name are not disclosed) in July 2020, during the offseason, and continued for around seven months. Throughout this period he collected his stool samples and sent them to Morinaga's research team for analysis. 

He later signed with a French (Ligue 1) team, and about a month after the move he suffered from gastroenteritis and was admitted to hospital. His physical condition was so badly impacted that he could not continue his usual training regime for a while.  

However, he says his digestive system steadily regained its balance and he believes this is thanks to the ‘Bifidobacteria Training’ program. He says he noticed improvements in his digestive system and physical condition as well as noticing his performance and recovery improved.

“[Bifidobacteria] saved me...I’m so much more confident now that I have the final piece of the puzzle in my goal to represent Japan in the 2022 World Cup,” ​he revealed in an online interview​.

The data that Morinaga's research team gain via his gut microbiota revealed inconsistency immediately after his move to France, followed by certain changes that suggested a strong connection between his enteric bacteria and his physical condition.

Speaking in the video, Dr. Toshitaka Odamaki, Manager of the Microbiota Research Department at the Next Generation Science Institute of Morinaga Milk, discusses the changes in Nagatomo’s gut microbiota over the course of the programme.

“The balance of enteric bacteria shifted substantially after [Nagatomo] moved from Japan to France, but his intake of bifidobacteria and balanced meals created a new balance that stabilised in December,” ​he said, also confirming the disappearance of the harmful bacteria.

“The analysis showed increases in good bacteria such as bifidobacteria and butyrate-producing bacteria following his persistence with the ‘Bifidobacteria Training’ program.”

Dr. Odamaki also noted that Nagatomo had a growing population of bacteria that is linked to the performance of professional athletes.

“This is the first experience to track the detailed changes in an individual’s gut microbial composition... Our analysis illustrated a strong connection between tangible feelings and enteric bacteria, which are normally hidden from us, a significant finding among Morinaga Milk’s research.”

In addition to Yuto Nagatomo, Morinaga has also recruited rhythmic gymnasts Kaho Minagawa and Chisaki Oiwa to participate in the collaborative project with plans to expand the program to include other athletes in the future. 

Morinaga will sponsor NutraIngredients' virtual Sports and Active Nutrition Summit, taking place on October 12-14.

The event will see industry though-leaders discussing many of the biggest topics in the market today, including the impact of gut health on athletes' performance and how microbiome modulators can be used as part of training regimes.

The stage is set for some of the industry's biggest names. But don’t take our word for it! Take a sneaky peak at the agenda​ for the summit and then register​!

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