Our gut microbiome – the trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and germs that live in our digestive tracts – is hugely important when it comes to health, influencing our immune systems, as well as our physical and mental states. But while we know that certain foods, such as fermented produce, yogurts, and non-starchy vegetables can help boost gut health, little is known about how many immune-boosting microorganisms people actually eat on a day-to-day basis as part of their diets. To investigate, researchers estimated the number of microorganisms per gram in more than 9,000 food items, including those high in such organisms, like yogurt, pickles, and kimchi. Then, to see how many people ate foods packed with microorganisms, the researchers took a detail look dietary data collected from 2001 to 2018 for almost 75,000 adults and children. Overall, 26% of adults and 20% of children consumed foods with high levels of microorganisms, researchers reported in The Journal of Nutrition. "When we think of microbes in our food, we often think of either foodborne pathogens that cause disease or probiotics that provide a documented health benefit," study co-author Colin Hill, PhD, of APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork, said in a statement. "It is very timely to estimate the daily intake of microbes by individuals in modern society as a first step towards a scientific evaluation of the importance of dietary microbes in human health and well-being," he added. *Image by rhys jung from Pixabay
Most people experience cravings for certain foods from time to time. But did you ever stop to think that these cravings could be your body's way of telling you that it wants something in particular? New research by the University of Pittsburgh has revealed that when we crave foods, it could be our gut microbiome's way of getting us to forage for foods containing certain nutrients. Studying mice that had been bred to have no microbiome, the researchers showed they could influence the mice's diet preferences through their gut microbiomes. Drs Kevin Kohl and Brian Trevelline from the University of Pittsburgh collected microbes from three wild rodent species with different natural diets. They gave these microbic “cocktails” to 30 of the study mice. What they witnessed was mice with different microbes selecting foods rich in significantly different macronutrients. In other words, it was as though their guts were driving their food preferences. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Trevelline said: "Animals need a suite of essential amino acids to survive. But the microbes that live inside of our guts need [to] grow and have some of these same nutrients or make nutrients that the human body or the animal body can recognize. For instance, they make these essential amino acids, and then they’re released into the gut where they can be absorbed by the host.” *Image by John Hain from Pixabay
More is being discovered all the time about the significant role of the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that live in our stomachs and intestines when it comes to our health. Now, the largest study of its kind to date has confirmed the link between the gut microbiome and the response to cancer immunotherapy therapy for melanoma. The study, the findings of which are published in the journal Nature Medicine, was co-ordinated by King's College London, CIBIO Department of the University of Trento and European Institute of Oncology in Italy, University of Groningen in the Netherlands and funded by the Seerave Foundation. Dr Karla Lee, clinical researcher at King's College London and first author of the study, said: "Preliminary studies on a limited number of patients have suggested that the gut microbiome, as an immune system regulator, plays a role in the response of each patient to cancer immunotherapy, and particularly in the case of melanoma. This new study could have a major impact on oncology and medicine in general." It's known that dietary changes can alter the microbiome, as can next generation probiotics and faecal transplantation. This change is in turn modifying the microbiome's action on the immune system. With this new understanding of the microbiome's impact on cancer therapy effectiveness, clinicians can potentially look to alter a patient's microbiome before beginning treatment. This is potentially important because less than 50% of immunotherapy patients respond positively to treatment for melanoma. *image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.