The American Gut Project (McDonald et al, 2018)
A massive project that looked at microbiome data of over 10,000 individuals across over 40 countries, with most participants from the US, UK, and Australia. Participants submitted microbiome samples (fecal, oral, or skin swabs) and completed a voluntary survey on their food habits, health history, and overall lifestyle. Researchers then analyzed the data as well as the microbiome sequence to understand associations and patterns that exist.
The study contributed to the understanding of microbiome diversity, the effect of environmental factors (such as geographical location), health factors (such as antibiotic use), and more.
A key and significant finding were that participants who consumed more than 30 varieties of plant foods a week had a more diverse microbiome than participants that consumed 10 varieties of plant foods each week.
Suggestion: use emojis to show 10 (repetition of foods) vs 30 plant foods (variety of foods)
We know that a diverse and thriving gut microbiome has benefits to digestive and overall health. This study helped show the link between food variety in supporting such a microbiome.
Putting it into practice
A plant food broadly refers to foods from the following categories
– Wholegrains, millets and cereals
– Legumes, lentils and pulses
– Nuts and seeds
Of course, each of these foods has their individual characteristics and benefits, a commonality though is that all these foods provide fibre which is fuel for our gut microbes!
How do you fare?
Track your plant food consumption across your meals for a week (e.g. 1 count for each plant food included, for example if you ate bhindi at lunch on Monday and Thursday it would count only once.) Are you including > 30 different plant foods?
McDonald, D., Hyde, E., Debelius, J. W., Morton, J. T., Gonzalez, A., Ackermann, G., Aksenov, A. A., Behsaz, B., Brennan, C., Chen, Y., DeRight Goldasich, L., Dorrestein, P. C., Dunn, R. R., Fahimipour, A. K., Gaffney, J., Gilbert, J. A., Gogul, G., Green, J. L., Hugenholtz, P., Humphrey, G., … Knight, R. (2018). American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems, 3(3), e00031-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSystems.00031-18