The future of nutrition is personalized and includes
gut microbial composition
Source: Gut Microbiota for Health
Dietitians are the best equipped health professionals to answer the question: What should I eat for better health? But when you’re sitting in a clinic asking this question, your dietitian faces a dilemma—what should they tell you when they know that not everyone responds the same way to exactly the same diet? According to Dr. Genelle Healeyfrom the Department of Pediatrics at University of British Columbia (Canada), dietitians will be better equipped in future to give detailed personal dietary advice—and it might be enabled by what we’re learning about the gut microbiota.
A growing number of scientific studies show diet can affect health through the gut microbiota—but Healey noticed that when she and her fellow scientists tested the effect of a certain diet or food item on people’s gut microbiota, they didn’t always find a distinct pattern. For example, one recent study from Denmark found a diet high in whole grains (as compared to refined grains) had beneficial effects on people’s body weight and their levels of inflammation, but it did not affect the gut microbiota in a predictable way in all the subjects.
“In most studies now, you’ll just group participants together and analyze [their] data,” Healey explains in an interview with Gut Microbiota for Health editors. “But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that certain foods and dietary patterns actually have differing effects on the gut microbiota between individuals.” That is to say, the same food item could change the gut microbiota in different ways in different people. So when the scientists take an average over many people, there’s no clear pattern.
Determined to find a way forward, Healey and co-authors argued in a recent scientific review paperthat concrete personalized dietary recommendations could be developed more easily if scientists took into account two things about their study participants: (1) their dietary habits, and (2) their gut microbiota composition and/or function at the beginning of the study. Based on these measures, she thinks, it may be possible to group people into categories that are going to respond in a predictable way to an item in the diet. This could lead to a new era in dietetics practice where individuals are ‘stratified’ into groups that will respond in a certain way to a certain nutritional intervention.
Concrete personalized dietary recommendations could be developed more easily if besides dietary habits the gut microbiota composition is taken into account
Read more on the Gut Microbiota for Health's website
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