24.11.2017 change 24.11.2017

Adjust your diet to your bacteria

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

The composition of microorganisms that inhabit our digestive system affects the way we digest and absorb food. If we get to know the habits of our small tenants, we will be able to tailor the diet for our needs - says Dr. Ola Kołodziejczyk.

Microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract usually have over 100 times more genes than humans. These microorganisms also digest and play a significant role in how we digest particular foods. Polish researcher Dr. Ola Kołodziejczyk from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel talked about this in an interview with PAP.


According to the researcher, our little tenants help us digest fat, protein, fibre and sugars. She added that substances secreted by bacteria can, for example, change the effects of digestive enzymes or bile, which it is very important in the absorption of fats or vitamins they contain.

The set of genes of our small tenants (including bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites) are the microbiome. Microbiome can be easily examined by analysing a stool sample and sequencing the genes it contains. Each of us has a slightly different microbiome that works a little differently. It is in part due to the microbiome - and our own genes - that some people gain weight easily, and others can have a more relaxed approach to diet.


The researchers investigated how the blood glucose levels changed after consuming specific products. And how does this level of glucose depended on the microbiome?

High glycemic index products typically cause rapid rise of blood glucose - undesirable in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Foods with a lower glycemic index are considered safer.

According to Israeli researchers, the differences between individuals can be quite significant. There are people who should not eat peaches, but don\'t have to worry about eating bananas... And other people - the other way around. Somebody\'s blood sugar levels might increase, for example, after eating a tomato - which has a low glycemic index. But there are lucky people who can even afford to eat ice cream without the risk of glycemic peak.

"Glycemic tables contain averaged data, but in reality, different people may react differently to different foods. It turns out that it is possible to personalize such indications and predict how a certain person will respond to a given food" - said Dr Kołodziejczyk. She added that the analysis of a person\'s microbiome can be helpful.


In the future, this could allow to prepare a personalized menu for a certain person. "The point is not to tell people to eat only lettuce, broccoli and steamed chicken. It\'s hard to comply with such restrictive requirements. We want people to get a menu that\'s tailored to their needs and capabilities. There are people who can safely eat a piece of chocolate or fruit with a high glycemic index. And since we can thoroughly test this, why should artificial and poorly matched requirements be imposed on such people?" - she said.

Dr. Kołodziejczyk works in the team of Prof. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. His research on this subject appeared two years ago in the journal "Cell". Now the scientist launches a start-up. He wants to create personalized menus for his customers based on their microbiomes.

Author: Ludwika Tomala

PAP - Science in Poland

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