Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, May 2018

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Probiotics/Prebiotics ■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 34 MAY 2018 MAKING SENSE of the Microbiome Interest in the human microbiome is going mainstream. Here are some of the takeaways researchers have gleaned so far. BY KIMBERLY J. DECKER N ow that startups can deliver at- home microbiome testing kits straight to your door, and with do- it-yourself fecal transplants a topic of polite conversation, we can safely say that consum- er interest in the vast community of organ- isms that inhabit our bodies—that is to say, the microbiome—has hit mainstream status. But rank-and-f le civilians are merely catching up with the scientif c community, which has been intrigued by the identity— and the implications—of the bacteria, fungi, and even viruses that make us…well, us since long before the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project in 2008. And all along, research f ndings have had no trouble keeping investigators' attention rapt—or keeping the dietary supplement space licking its chops at the prospect of products that can harness the microbiome's benef ts. As Joseph Petrosino, PhD, profes- sor, Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX), notes, "Excitement exists because the microbiome is being shown to impact health and disease broadly, and may be read- ily modif ed to treat a specif c disease state without the side ef ects attributed to other drug treatments." But it's a long way from here to there, with plenty still to learn. Nonetheless, experts agree: No matter how long it takes to put the puzzle together, the pieces are already falling into place. Beyond the Belly A sure sign that "good gut bugs" have arrived is the fact that nobody still associates their benef ts solely with the gut. "While I try to avoid piling on the hype," Petrosino says, "there are microbiome studies that show associations with diseases throughout the body—skin, oral, lung, vaginal, etc.—in addi- tion to gut microbial associations with dis- eases that aren't gut-centric." T e gut-brain axis is one example of these associations, with central theory being that the biome in the gastrointestinal tract can in- f uence cognitive and mental states, including SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/ VRX

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