Using your gut microbes to find the perfect diet

Cave Man Paleo breakfast. Photo by Katherine Lim

It seems every generation has its own bouquet of diets that people swear by.

In the early 80s, diet guru Nathan Pritikin believed that we should shun all fats and food containing cholesterol. He died of leukemia in ’85, but apparently his autopsy revealed that he had “arteries like those of a child and a heart like that of a young man”.

His arch rival in the time, Robert Atkins, of the Atkin’s Diet fame, espoused just the opposite - low-carb, high fat diets. His controversial death threw up allegations of a life long history of cardiac issues and obesity. But still there are people around who swear about it.

Loads of new diets have sprung up in recent years, with a loud number of them blaming carbs, sugar, starches and other GI (glycaemic index) manipulating food groups to be the cause of diet issues in the population.

Now a new article goes a bit deeper. It follows the published “study from an Israeli team led by Eran Segal”, to suggest that looking at all carbs the same way and avoiding them is too simplistic an approach. Human body is too complex and different sources of carbs affect different people in different ways. One of the major reason that they pointed out was the difference in the profile of the microbes in our digestive system!

From their study,

People eating the same foods and had the same GI scores had very different glucose responses. Some of this was due to existing weight and age differences in the study’s subjects – but differences remained even in similar people that they couldn’t explain. That was until they looked inside their intestines at the thousands of species of microbes we have inside us. ... The researchers found that the highly variable microbial profile in the guts of the volunteers determined how quickly the food was broken down and the rate at which glucose appeared in the blood. This was a much stronger effect than the type of carb being eaten. Some people could eat potatoes without any surge in blood sugar and others with the wrong set of microbes just had to look at one and their blood levels peaked.

Now if you want to find out exactly what your diet should or should not contain, you can sequence your gut profile!

Rather than avoiding all foods which might be harmful and reducing your fibre and diversity, profiling your gut microbes from a piece of toilet paper could tell you whether you should be eating potatoes or not. By using the breakthrough techniques of gene sequencing we can now accurately and cheaply identify the different patterns of microbes.

The article points out an american crowd funded org - americangut.org, that sounds interesting to me. I should read up on them.

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