July 19, 2019
Ron Hills, Ph.D., and Steev Sutton, Ph.D., B.S., associate professors in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, recently published an article in Nutrients on the role diet plays in shaping gut bacteria and determining health outcomes.
Nutrients is a peer-reviewed open access journal of human nutrition published monthly online.
The article, “Gut microbiome: Profound implications for diet and disease,” was coauthored by students Hillary Mischon (Pharmacy, ’21) and Cody Black (Pharmacy, ’18). Black is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.
According to the article, scientists have accumulated a growing body of evidence that the tens of trillions of microorganisms residing in our gut play a central role in human health, influencing chronic diseases from metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease to significant gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease.
The article discusses the roles a quality diet and fiber intake play in contributing to the proliferation of specific bacterial species beneficial to human health.
A healthy microbiome provides protective effects against gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases. Molecules produced by gut microbes have also been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and influence mental health, a signaling network known as the “gut-brain axis.”
“Understanding the central role that the microbiome plays in determining health will serve to guide new approaches in the emerging fields of personalized medicine and precision nutrition,” explained Hills, the article’s lead author.
Questions that still need to be addressed by researchers in the field are exactly which bacterial species and features characterize a health-promoting microbiome and which dietary interventions or supplementations with live probiotics can improve a gut that is out of balance.