Maintaining Healthy Microbiomes
FOOD TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE |January 1, 2020
Microbiome is a growing buzzword in various industries. An ad for Dove Moisturizing Bodywash, for example, says that it “respects skin’s microbiome” and is “microbiome gentle.” In the food industry and nutrition world, the gut microbiome is a hot topic. “There’s clearly growing interest in microbiome health,” observes John Quilter, vice president and general manager, ProActive Health, at Kerry.
“Between 2014 and 2019, the number of Google searches for ‘microbiome’ rose by 267%,” he says, citing research from Google Trends, August 2019. “As interest rises, more and more consumers are learning about the connection between a healthy microbiome and a healthy digestive system.”
The growing interest in healthy microbiomes can be seen in the foods and beverages being introduced in the marketplace. Good Culture in 2019 debuted its Wellness Probiotic Gut Shots. The shots contain 50 billion live and active cultures. Good Culture combines its kefir with functional ingredients like matcha, turmeric, collagen, and chaga to create probiotic-packed shots with functional benefits. Another company, Uplift Foods, offers Gut Happy Cookies, which contain 1 billion CFU (colony forming unit) probiotics in the cookie cream and four prebiotics in the cookie, including soluble tapioca fiber, kiwifruit powder, lupin beans, and tiger nuts, a root-based vegetable.
Here’s a look at more developments related to helping improve the health of the microbiome.
Research on the gut microbiome is linking parts of the diet with healthy microbiomes and uncovering benefits of a healthy gut microbiome, including supporting mental health, cardiovascular health, weight management, and more.
Smith et al. (2019) linked gut microbiome composition with sleep physiology. The researchers found that total microbiome diversity was positively correlated with increased sleep efficiency and total sleep time. The results also showed positive correlations between total microbiome diversity and interleukin-6, a cytokine previously noted for its effects on sleep.
At the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week in October 2019, researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen, in Groningen, the Netherlands, discussed that certain foods, including legumes, bread, fish, nuts, and wine, were associated with high levels of gut-friendly bacteria that aid the biosynthesis of essential nutrients and the production of short-chain fatty acids, the main source of energy for cells lining the colon (UEG 2019). The researchers observed four study groups: the general population, subjects with Crohn’s disease, subjects with ulcerative colitis, and subjects with irritable bowel syndrome. Dietary patterns rich in bread, legumes, fish, and nuts were associated with a decrease in potentially harmful, aerobic bacteria. Higher consumption of these foods was also associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers in stool that are known to rise during intestinal inflammation. Red wine, vegetables, fruit, and cereals were also associated with a higher abundance of bacteria with antiinflammatory functions.
A small pilot study out of Wake Forest School of Medicine identified several distinct gut microbiome signatures— the chemicals produced by bacteria—in subjects with mild cognitive impairment but not in subjects with normal cognition (Nagpal 2019). They found that these distinct gut microbiome signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the subjects with mild cognitive impairment. The results of a cross-group dietary intervention showed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet produced changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of the markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the subjects of both study groups.
Holscher et al. (2018) demonstrated that walnut consumption affected the composition and function of the human gastrointestinal microbiota and suggested that the gastrointestinal microbiota may contribute to the underlying mechanisms of the beneficial health effects of walnuts. Kaczmarek et al. (2019) found that broccoli consumption affects the composition and function of the human gastrointestinal microbiota, while Dhillon et al. (2019) showed that eating an almond snack in the morning improved the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome in subjects who predominantly skip eating breakfast.