Gut bacteria under the microscope

The hundreds of trillions of bacteria which live in our gut will be the subject of a free event next week.

The positive and negative impact these tiny organisms have on our health will be examined in a talk by Professor Harry Flint from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health on Tuesday (June 15).

How what we eat can affect the health of our gut will also be explored at the event which takes place at the Woodend Barn in Banchory, beginning at 7pm.

Professor Flint said: “There is a vast array of micro-organisms which live in our bodies - in fact they outnumber human cells in the body by ten to one.

“The majority of these bacteria are harmless or actually beneficial to our health.  They help us break down certain food categories – such as fibrous foods - which our bodies would otherwise be unable to digest.  In breaking down the food, the bacteria produce acids which we can absorb and use as an energy source.

“Some of the acids produced in this process are also known to be beneficial in protecting us from colon cancer and colitis.

“However a small number of these bacteria are harmful and can cause disease.  Some of these harmful bacteria are in our gut much of the time, whilst others are ingested through contaminated foods, for example E. coli O157.

“My talk will examine both these good and bad bacteria and also discuss present and future pro and pre biotic products, many of which are now readily available to consumers, and their potential contribution to health.”

Professor Flint’s talk is the final in the inaugural Café Scientifique Shire series which has brought monthly discussion and debate around the latest topics in science to audiences in Deeside since its launch in February.

Dr Ken Skeldon from the University of Aberdeen’s Public Engagement with Science Unit who oversees the Café Scientifique Shire series said:  “The aim of Café Scientifique Shire is to provide the public with the chance to gain real insights from leading lights in the world of science and engage in discussion and debate.

“The series has covered a wide variety of highly topical issues in science – from space travel to forensic physiciatry.

“Professor Flint’s talk promises to provide a fascinating insight into our gut health, to conclude the series.”

Professor Flint’s talk – In Your Guts - takes place at Banchory’s Woodend Barn on Tuesday June 15 beginning at 7pm.  Booking is not required for the event which is free to attend and open to all.

It takes place ahead of an important international conference on gut microbiology - Rowett INRA 2010- organised by the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, which will be held at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre from June 23 – 25. For more information on the conference visit:

For information on the Café Scientifique series visit: or contact Dr Ken Skeldon Head of the University of Aberdeen’s Public Engagement with Science Unit by email at .

Café Scientifique is supported by a science engagement grant from the Scottish Government.