Would you believe us if we said that all aspects of your social life, from hugs to handshakes, have an influence on your microbiome? Well they do!
A number of recent studies have explored how the social life of animals and humans shape our microbial populations – and in a good way.
What started out as a study to uncover the deep evolutionary roots of social behaviour in primates revealed a surprising link into the microbiome. The Amboseli Baboon Research Project, which was founded in 1971, discovered five years ago that social group membership and social network relationships predicted both the taxonomic structure of the gut microbiome and the structure of genes encoded by gut microbial species.
The findings of the study have increased our understanding of how social relationships influence health, suggesting that diverse social relationships might ensure more diverse microbial communities. The study also highlighted the role of bacteria in our social structures and interactions, as well as the part it plays for other animals.
The next time you hug someone, shake their hand or kiss them on the cheek, think of it as the next step in the evolution of your microbiome.