Nutrition and diet have a profound impact on the microbial composition in the gut, in turn affecting a range of metabolic, hormonal, and neurological processes, according to a literature review by scientists from the George Washington University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Until recently, the human microbiome remained an understudied target for novel strategies to diagnose and treat disease. The prevalence of diseases that may involve disruption of the gut microbiome are increasing and there is currently no consensus in the scientific community on what defines a "healthy gut" microbiome.
Microbiome, microbiota defined
Your intestines are home to trillions and trillions of microbes, the vast majority of them residing in the large intestine. Collectively, these bacteria, yeasts and fungi make up what’s called your microbiota.
The terms microbiota and microbiome are often used interchangeably, but there’s a subtle difference. The gut microbiome refers to the gut microbes themselves (microbiota) plus the genes they contain.
Our gut microbiota extracts energy and nutrients from fibre, synthesizes certain vitamins, activates disease-fighting phytochemicals, regulates immune function and protects the lining of the gut. Growing evidence suggests this microbial community also plays a role in inflammatory bowel disease, mental health, weight control, even food cravings.
About the review of studies
The new review systematically assessed the current understanding of the interactions between nutrition and the gut microbiome in healthy adults.
The authors found that the bi-directional relationship between nutrition and the gut microbiome is emerging as more research is conducted on how the microbiota utilize and produce both nutrients. Research has mostly focused on the benefits of dietary fibre, which serves as fuel for gut microbiota.
In contrast, protein promotes microbial protein metabolism and potentially harmful by-products that may sit in the gut, increasing the risk of negative health outcomes.
The review also concluded that the measurement tools we currently have are ineffective for identifying the microbial signatures that can serve as strong indicators of health and disease.
Future research needs to consider individual responses to diet and how the gut microbiome responds to dietary interventions, as well as look at the function of the microbiome (what it does) over merely composition (what is there).
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.