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Microbiome–Diet and Health

August 14, 2012

As if we need yet another reason to feel guilty about what we eat–our gut microbial community depends on us. We’re not just eating for one, but for 10^14 (that’s 1 with 14 zeros).

A study in Nature finds that in elderly people, the populations of intestinal bacteria shift depending on obesity and inflammatory diseases. Elderly people vary a lot more in their microbial passengers–perhaps because their systems are less tightly controlled. The people tested were residents of community, day-hospital, rehabilitation or in long-term residential care. Fascinatingly, their microbial composition “clustered” based on diet (sweets versus fiber) and residence site (community versus institutional). Community-based elderly people had greater diversity of microbiota. Other clustering factors include general health, nutritional status, and  inflammation. So changes in microbial composition as we age may be associated with varying rates of health decline. And not surprisingly, microbial diversity correlates positively with the “healthy food diversity index.”

In other words, you are what your microbes eat.

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