September 21, 2018

Study Finds Diet Alters Human Gut Microbiome

Bacteria in our guts play an important role in health. An imbalance in gut bacteria can be linked to everything from inflammatory bowel disease to reduced immunity, changes in behavior, and weight problems. A new study published in Nature finds that diet can rapidly alter our gut microbiome.

Woman's Torso Food PoisoningAn animal-based diet increases the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms and decreases the levels of bacteria that metabolize plant polysaccharides. A plant-based diet Foodborne microbes from both meat and plant-based diets colonize the gut. These microbes can include bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The animal-based diet let bacterium linked to inflammation and intestinal diseases flourish.

While long-term dietary changes influence the gut microbiome, scientists did not think that the population of our guts can change within a day depending on what we eat. Scientists had only seen this happen in mice, until now.

Dr. Lawrence David of Harvard University led the team that researched this issue. He said, “It’s exciting and gratifying to find out this holds up in people. We’re getting an increasing appreciation of how flexible and responsible the microbiome is, even on a very short time scale.” This adaptability could be used to control illnesses of the GI tract.

In addition, the behaviors of the bacteria in the gut of volunteers changed. Diet turned on different genes in the bacteria. David said, “our study is a proof of concept that you can modify the microbiome through diet.” Their next step is to measure levels of inflammation in the test subjects. Since about one in three people report post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome after a bout of food poisoning, changing diet could be one tool to help control this disease after a foodborne illness outbreak.

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