The Latest Research on the Human Microbiome

virusesHave you kept up-to-date with the research on the human microbiome lately? If not, here’s your chance to catch up. Rather than doing a regular “The Latest in Health & Medicine” post, I decided to specifically focus on the trillions of microbes that occupy the human body in today’s research summary; largely because there’s been so much happening within this field lately. These days it seems like rarely a day goes by when new and interesting scientific papers on the human microbiome aren’t published. To avoid making this post excessively long, I’ve only included links to recently published articles and scientific papers that I find particularly interesting – and that I believe the readers of this site will enjoy.

Let me know in the comment section if you have any thoughts/opinions related to the articles in today’s post or if you’ve come across any interesting new research on this topic that deserves to be mentioned.

Without further ado, let’s get to it…

Western diets damage gut microbiota over generations, in ways hard to reverse

… the depletion of gut microbes that comes with diets deficient in fiber extend well beyond the lives of those whose dietary choices made it happen, a new study finds. Over generations of exposure to diets low in fiber, the research shows that a microbiotic population die-off threatens to drive some of the trillions of microorganisms that live in healthy human guts to the brink of extinction. Read more…

Weekend binges just as bad for the gut as a regular junk food diet, study suggests

“The findings indicate that intermittent exposure to junk food three days a week is sufficient to extensively shift the gut microbiota towards the pattern seen in obese rats consuming the diet continuously,” Professor Morris said. Read more…

How Your Social Life Changes Your Microbiome

A growing number of studies, including two recent ones with chimps and baboons, have shown that social interactions affect the composition of the microbiome. Through hugs, handshakes, and even hip-checks, we translate our social networks into microbial ones, transferring benign or beneficial microbes to our neighbors, and acquiring theirs in return. Read more…

Altered microbiome burns fewer calories

Drug-induced changes to the gut microbiome can cause obesity by reducing the resting metabolic rate — the calories burned while sleeping or resting — a new study in mice demonstrates. Read more…

Early-life exercise alters gut microbes, promotes healthy brain and metabolism

The study found that juvenile rats who voluntarily exercised every day developed a more beneficial microbial structure, including the expansion of probiotic bacterial species in their gut compared to both their sedentary counterparts and adult rats, even when the adult rats exercised as well. Read more…

Bacteria In Contact Lenses May Cause Inflammatory Response Leading To Microbial Keratitis

Contact lenses have made our lives easier by giving us “20/20 vision” without having to wear a pair of glasses. With this great freedom comes great responsibility, and failure to take care of our lenses could potentially lead to blindness. In Gross Science’s latest video, “What’s Living On Your Contact Lenses?” host Anna Rothschild explains that contact lens wearers are more susceptible to having organisms like bacteria, fungi, and amoebas “eat” our eyes out because extensive lens use can easily trap them in our eyes. Read more…

Link between stress, unhealthy microbiomes discovered

Red squirrels living in a low-stress environment harbor healthier communities of micro-organisms, a result that might hold implications for human health, according to a new study. Read more…

Microorganisms in the womb set stage for diseases

Researchers review importance of microorganisms that exist in the gut, suggesting perturbation of the environment during pregnancy, delivery and early infancy could impact the developing baby’s early microbiome and set the stage for health problems later in life. Read more…

Bears’ seasonal hibernation linked to changes in gut microbes

Each year, as bears prepare to hibernate, they gorge themselves on food to pack on fat. And yet, despite the rapid weight gain, the animals somehow avoid the health consequences so often associated with obesity in humans. Now, researchers reporting in Cell Reports on February 4 show that the bears’ shifting metabolic status is associated with significant changes in their gut microbes. Read more…

Has provoking microbiota aggression driven the obesity epidemic?

Alterations in the gut microbiome have increasingly been implicated in driving obesity and its associated diseases, but underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. Herein, in addition to reviewing the field, we hypothesize that a highly significant causative factor of such inflammatory disease-associated microbiome alterations is a more aggressive microbiota that encroaches upon its host, with components having high potential to activate host pro-inflammatory gene expression in a manner that drives metabolic disease. We further hypothesize that a range of societal changes, including use of antibiotics and increasing consumption of food additives, have provoked such microbiota aggression and, consequently, may be contributing factors to the increased incidence of obesity and its associated diseases. Read more…

How Microbes Make Malnutrition Worse

Together, these studies illustrate the big themes in microbiome research: how influential our microscopic companions are; how much potential there is for improving our health by manipulating them; and how carefully we must proceed in doing so. Read more…

What bacteria may reveal about your home

Whether it’s a jungle hut or a high-rise apartment, your home is covered in bacteria, and new research from the Amazon suggests city dwellers might want to open a window. Read more…

Gut Dysbiosis in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa.

In the current study, AN [Anorexia Nervosa] patients had significantly lower amounts of total bacteria, C. coccoides group, C. leptum subgroup, B. fragilis, and Streptococcus than age-matched healthy women. In addition, acetic acid and propionic acid levels were significantly lower in the AN group than in the control group. The detection rate of the Lactobacillus plantarum subgroup was also significantly lower in the AN group than in the control group. In the AN subtype analysis, the counts of the Bacteroides fragilis group in both the ANR and ANBP groups and the counts of the Clostridium coccoides in the ANR group were significantly lower than those in the control group. The PCA results showed that the patterns of gut microbiota in the AN group were different from those in the control group. Collectively, these results indicate that microbial imbalance, i.e. dysbiosis, does exist in the gut of AN patients. Read more…

Scientists bust myth that our bodies have more bacteria than human cells

It’s often said that the bacteria and other microbes in our body outnumber our own cells by about ten to one. That’s a myth that should be forgotten, say researchers in Israel and Canada. The ratio between resident microbes and human cells is more likely to be one-to-one, they calculate. Read more…

Alterations in the gut microbiotas of children with food sensitization in early life.

Our results showed that FS [Food Sensitization] is associated with compositional changes in the gut microbiota. These findings could be useful for developing strategies to control the development of FS or atopy by modifying the gut microbiota. Read more…

Poop Bank Opens in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is opening its first fecal bank (like a blood bank for poop) in the hopes of making healthy poop available for patients with chronic gut issues. Read more…

The intestinal microbiota: A new ally for optimum growth

The intestinal microbiota is necessary to ensure optimum postnatal growth and contributes to determining the size of adult individuals, notably in the event of undernutrition. The key element in this relationship is Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1), whose production and activity are in part controlled by the microbiota. Read more…

Can the Microbiome Mutiny?

Muller and his colleagues propose that some of the microbes that live in our bodies can also switch from benign to deadly for similar reasons. While we’re healthy, they growing slowly, causing us no harm. But as we approach the end of our lives, the microbiome shifts to a more aggressive strategy. Read more…

Bacterial molecules discovered in processed foods could unlock key to healthier diets

Our favorite foods could be made healthier thanks to a new technique which has identified harmful bacterial molecules in certain processed foods such as burgers and ready meals. The study identifies a particular kind of contaminating molecule known as ‘pathogen-associated molecular patterns’ (PAMPs), which are released by certain types of bacteria as they grow during some food processing and refrigeration processes, and may increase our risk of developing conditions such as coronary artery disease and Type 2 diabetes. Read more…

Drugging the microbiome may treat heart disease

A first-of-a-kind drug that interferes with the metabolic activity of gut microbes could one day treat heart disease in humans, according to a mouse study published December 17 in Cell. Dietary supplementation with a compound that is naturally abundant in red wine and olive oil prevented gut microbes from turning unhealthy foods into metabolic byproducts that clog arteries. The findings suggest that a Mediterranean diet exerts its beneficial health effects by altering the activity of gut microbes. Read more…

Infant gut microbiome development not driven by maternal weight

Although genetics and maternal obesity can have some effect on the development of an infant’s microbiome, the transition to food has a much larger effect, according to research in Finland.

Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark found that once food was introduced to an infant’s diet, the influence of maternal obesity faded significantly. Read more…

U.S. Navy Recruits Gut Microbes to Fight Obesity and Disease

In 2014 Tabor received a three-year grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) to genetically modify a harmless species of Escherichia coli bacteria normally found in the human gut. The goal is to create an edible probiotic organism that can hone in on developing disease and stave it off, even before symptoms take hold. He has recently succeeded in engineering E. coli with sensors that can detect the presence of chemicals signaling disease—at least in the mouse gut. Read more…

Developing probiotic mixes to treat intestinal infections

Antibiotics that fight infection can adversely affect the digestive tract and give destructive bacteria a chance to flourish, said assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences Joy Scaria of South Dakota State University. His research seeks to identify probiotic mixes to treat intestinal infections, such as Clostridium difficile. Read more…

Picture: Creative Commons picture by John Voo. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Perfect timing Eirik 🙂 Thank you so much <3 and as always, this is beautifully put together.
    Keep up the phenomenal work brother 🙂

    • Hi Julia!

      I saw your e-mail right after I published this post. Happy coincidence.

      I sent you links to a couple of review papers that you may find useful.

  2. Hi Eirik. Thanks for another thought-provoking article.

    “Has provoking microbiota aggression driven the obesity epidemic?” While an interesting (entertaining?) theory, I would have to say no, or at least not to any great extent. If there is, in reality, such a thing as “microbiota aggression”, I suspect it’s much more a symptom than a cause.

    What continues to drive the obesity epidemic, IMHO, is eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. It’s all about too much sugar, too many sweets (of any kind), too many grain products, too much soda, and of course supersizing everything we put in our mouths. It’s about not knowing or caring about good nutrition, or assuming any personal responsibility and employing a little willpower. It’s about people who are very good at rationalizing…until they are suddenly 75 or 100 pounds overweight and suffering from a myriad of health issues. And then, all too often, they are given a crutch by being told it’s not their fault. Various other “causative” factors that research science comes up with only puts spin on the facts, which apparently nobody really wants to confront.

    • I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, Shary… but we part ways when it comes to the importance of the gut microbiota. I think the microbiome plays a key role in obesity and body fat regulation.

      In short, here’s how I see it:
      Poor diet and/or other factors that negatively impact the microbiome (e.g., antibiotics, c-section, bottle-feeding, stress, inadequate sleep)–> Loss of biodiversity and gut dysbiosis—>Leaky gut, endotoxemia, chronic low-grade inflammation and decreased leptin and insulin sensitivity–>Perturbation of the energy homeostatic set point and cravings/appetite for energy-dense, highly palatable food–>Fat gain

      A vicious cycle…

  3. The NYT linked article suggests what I’ve been thinking for a while. There is good and bad research out there. Now bad research,i.e. the biased one funded to serve the business is getting overwhelming and through the force of media is what we actually hear every day. I agree that some fermented food may be good, but on the other hand the important thing to learn is: don’t believe in any “take this all fixing probiotic and eat your pasta and pizza”. We CO- evolved with our bugs, and there are species appropriate bugs that work in symbiosis with our DNA. This means that in a herbivore I would expect to find some kind of bacteria (cellulose degradating for ex), in carnivores ones that handle meat, and we should be somwhere in the middle. Now, I’ve seen advertisments about probiotics that promise to help you to digest even gluten…even if it was real (their only support seem to be a not much reliable in vitro study), how would they behave in our body if our gut didn’t evolve to have these many of these guys inside? My hint would be: focus on the food we are naturally adapted to eat as a primary source, you can add safe probiotic and prebiotic food and don’t try to kill any bacteria on your path. Bad bacteria settle down and behave bad if you kill the good guys.

    • The thing that drives me crazy is the “pill that fix everything” idea. Nature is much more complex than that…

      • Interesting you should mention that, Alessio. I actually have an article on this exact topic nearly ready to be published. When you read it, I think you will find that we are very much on the same page regarding this issue.

  4. Eirik. Thank you for your research. It’s greatly appreciated. I believe you would find Dr. Chutkan a fascinating functional medicine practitioner to read up on regarding this relatively “new” aspect of gastroenterology. She has touched upon pretty much everything in this article in one way or another. Yes, the microbiome is indeed a key factor in the chronic disease epidemic that we have found ourselves so immersed in today. No one with a Standard American Diet (SAD) will have a healthy microbiome. That lifestyle appears to be firmly entrenched in those that also believe in “a pill for an ill”. A beginning into who she is can be found here…http://www.digestivecenterforwomen.com/content/gastroenterologist-and-wellness-expert. I believe you would also find the Functional Forum extremely enlightening as well, if you do not already subscribe to their talks. http://functionalforum.com/

    Again. Thank you.

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