Microbiome’s role in personalized nutrition: Study identifies 15 gut microbes that may tackle diseases
The identified gut microbes are linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity
13 Jan 2021 --- The “landmark” results of Personalized Responses to Dietary Composition Trial 1 (PREDICT 1) have revealed that diets rich in healthy and plant-based foods, which promote the presence of beneficial gut microbes, are linked to lower risk for illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The large-scale international study program was created by Tim Spector, an epidemiologist from King’s College London and scientific founder of ZOE, a personalized nutrition start-up. The researchers spotlight that the findings can be used to help create personalized eating plans designed specifically to improve health.
PREDICT 1 used metagenomics and blood chemical profiling to uncover a panel of 15 gut microbes associated with lower risks of these non-communicable conditions.
“We discovered that the microbiome is unique to each individual and not predetermined by our genes. Therefore, there is great potential to modify our microbiome through diet to positively impact our health” Dr. Sarah Berry, one of the researchers participating, from King’s College London, tells NutritionInsight.
“These findings suggest that due to the personalised nature of the microbiome, a personalised approach to what you eat for your unique biology is the best way to positively impact your health.”
Personalized response to diet
“We were surprised to see such large, clear groups of what we informally call good and bad microbes emerging from our analysis. It is also exciting to see that microbiologists know so little about many of these microbes that they are not even named yet,” notes Dr. Nicola Segata, professor and principal investigator of the Computational Metagenomics Lab at the University of Trento.
“This is a big area of focus for us, as the findings may open new insights in the future into how we could use the gut microbiome as a modifiable target to improve human metabolism and health.”
The study adds to evidence linking the gut microbiome to overall health and a holistic approach to health, which is increasingly popular with consumers.
The PREDICT 1 trial
The research from ZOE, King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Trento, Italy, has been published in Nature Medicine.
It analyzed detailed data on the composition of participants' gut microbiomes, their dietary habits, and cardiometabolic blood biomarkers.
It uncovered strong links between a person’s diet, the microbes in their gut microbiome and their health.
The researchers identified microbes that positively or negatively correlate “good” and “bad” with an individual’s risk of certain serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Surprisingly, the microbiome has a greater association to these markers than other factors, such as genetics. Some of the identified microbes are so novel that they have not yet been named.
The researchers defined a “healthy” diet as one that contained a mix of foods associated with a lower risk of chronic disease.
They found that trial subjects who ate such a diet, or one rich in plants, were more likely to have high levels of specific “good” gut microbes which are associated with a low risk of common illnesses.
Microbes for better blood sugar levels
The researchers also found microbiome-based biomarkers of obesity as well as markers for cardiovascular disease and impaired glucose tolerance, which are key risk factors for COVID-19.
For example, the findings reveal that having a microbiome rich in Prevotella copri and Blastocystis species was associated with maintaining a favorable blood sugar level after a meal. Other species were linked to lower post-meal levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation.
Spector says that “when you eat, you’re not just nourishing your body, you’re feeding the trillions of microbes that live inside your gut.”
PREDICT is pegged as the largest in-depth nutritional study in the world. PREDICT 1 was an international collaboration to study links between diet, the microbiome and biomarkers of cardiometabolic health.
The researchers gathered microbiome sequence data, detailed long-term dietary information, and results of hundreds of cardiometabolic blood markers from just over 1,100 participants in the US and the UK.
PREDICT 2 completed its primary investigations in 2020 with a further 1,000 US participants, and PREDICT 3 launched a few months ago.
Edited by Kristiana Lalou
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