Breaking down the microbiology world one bite at a time
A Day in the Life of a Spaniard’s Microbiome
“You are what you eat, ” when it comes to your microbiome, at least according to a recent microbiome study on people from Spain. Researchers sequence 530 people’s (267 females, 263 males) stool samples, hoping they can learn which microbes constitute a healthy microbiome. In short, scientists want to discover how these microbes relate with factors such as BMI, age, sex, etc. and vice versa.
The results show that microbial groups, or phyla, Firmicutes, Bacteroidota, Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Actinobacteriota predominate the average Spanish population’s microbiome. Many studies find these specific bacteria greatly contribute to human health. After all, your gut microbiome helps you digest different foods, absorb nutrients, defend the body against pathogens, and more! You can find unique microbial discrepancies amongst the Spanish subpopulations. For example, scientists have found up to 10 distinct phyla within each participant’s microbiome.
Furthermore, scientists may measure microbial diversity within stool samples. They’ve found that participants who regularly consume nuts possess the most microbial species.
Scientists continue measuring diversity since lower diversity means that only one, or a select few, microbes comprise your microbiome. This can lead to imbalance — particularly a deficit in beneficial or necessary microbes (a phenomenon called dysbiosis) — which researchers have found often associates or lends to several health conditions.
Some scientists use a Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio as one tool to help gauge dysbiosis. Higher and lower ratios correspond to different diseases, e.g., obesity relates to a higher “imbalance” ratio, or dysbiosis, while a lower one relates to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Think about microbes for a minute: they can help, harm, or stay neutral within you. Insufficient helpful microbes may fail to protect you from harmful microbes and can cause digestive issues. Scientists have also linked gut microbes to providing nutrients to the host, which can prompt vitamin deficiencies — that come with their own health problems. Thus, a little (im)balance goes a long way.
All in all, several components contribute to a healthy microbiome. Generally, your body benefits from a diverse microbial community. Researchers continue to learn how different microbes impact health and what they can do to improve it. Overall, comprehensive microbiome profiling amongst all different populations, all different people, all different microbiomes, remains key to discovering more about human health, to discovering more about your unique personal health — a hope that goes beyond a gut feeling.
Link to the original post: Latorre-Pérez, A., Hernández, M., Iglesias, J.R. et al. The Spanish gut microbiome reveals links between microorganisms and Mediterranean diet. Sci Rep 11, 21602 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01002-1