New microbiome research finds associations between microbes, diet, and metabolic health

Sebastian Krawiec

Sebastian Krawiec is Editor at Nutritional Outlook.

A recent study called the Personalised Responses to Dietary Composition Trial (PREDICT 1) study, is among the largest and most detailed on the microbiome after performing deep metagenomic sequencing of 1,203 gut microbiomes from 1,098 individuals.

A recent study called the Personalised Responses to Dietary Composition Trial (PREDICT 1) study1, is among the largest and most detailed on the microbiome after performing deep metagenomic sequencing of 1,203 gut microbiomes from 1,098 individuals. Subjects also provided researchers detailed long-term diet information, and hundreds of fasting and same-meal postprandial cardiometabolic blood marker measurements.

Researchers were able to find significant associations between microbes and specific nutrients, foods, food groups, and general dietary indices driven by the presence and diversity of healthy and plant-based foods. In addition, microbes in the gut were linked to biomarkers of metabolic disease. For example, a microbiome rich in Prevotella copri and Blastocystis species was associated with maintaining a favorable blood sugar level after a meal while other species were linked to lower post-meal levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation.

“We were surprised to see such large, clear groups of what we informally call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes emerging from our analysis,” said Nicola Segata, PhD, professor and principal investigator of the Computational Metagenomics Lab at the University of Trento, Italy and leader of the microbiome analysis in the study, in a press release. “It is also exciting to see that microbiologists know so little about many of these microbes that they are not even named yet. This is now a big area of focus for us, as we believe they 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.”

“As a nutritional scientist, finding novel microbes that are l inked to specific foods, as well as metabolic health, is exciting,” said the study’s leader of nutritional science Sarah Berry, PhD, senior lecturer at King’s College London. “Given the highly personalized composition of each individuals’ microbiome, our research suggests that we may be able to modify our gut microbiome to optimize our health by choosing the best foods for our unique biology.”

Berry is also a member of ZOE’s scientific advisory board. ZOE is a healthcare science startup that is leading the PREDICT studies. The company was started by Tim Spector, MD, FRCP, FRSB, professor epidemiology at King’s College London, data science leader Jonathan Wolf and entrepreneur George Hadjigeorgiou. PREDICT 2 completed its primary investigations in 2020 with a further 1,000 U.S participants, and PREDICT 3 launched a few months ago.

“Through ZOE, we can now offer an opportunity to discover which of these microbes they have living in their gut,” said Spector. “By using machine learning, we have the ability to share with you our calculations of how your body will respond to any food in real time.”

Reference

  1. Ansicar F et al. “Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotyped individuals.” Nature Medicine, Published online ahead of print on January 11, 2021