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More knowledge on the role of gut bacteria in diet and health

Posted October 29, 2019

A research project led by the Technical University of Denmark, DTU, will generate more knowledge of the role gut microbiota plays when people react differently to the same diet. The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded the project nearly 60 million Danish kroner.

We often say: “You are what you eat”. However, individuals actually react differently to the same diet. One reason is that our gut contains a massive community of microbes—the gut microbiome—that functions differently from person to person.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded nearly 60 million Danish kroner through its Challenge Programme to a research project that will examine how gut microbiota influences the individual response to given diets. The project is led by Professor Tine Rask Licht from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

Stomach – artistic illustration. Image credit: mcmurryjulie, free image via Pixabay

Insufficiently explored field

The bacteria in the body convert a small part of the food we eat into new substances called microbial metabolites. These metabolites can affect our immune system, our hormone balance, our health and possibly even our mood. Therefore, we need more knowledge about how bacteria influence this dietary conversion.

“Bacterial growth physiology is an insufficiently explored aspect of the interaction between diet, gut bacteria, and health. We know very little about why people’s bodies react differently to the same diet. Our project will, therefore, investigate how the gut microbiome contributes to this variation and which environmental conditions in the gut control the growth and activity of the microbiota,” Tine Rask Licht explains.

When researchers improve the basic understanding of how microbial growth and nutrient conversion affect health, this can be used e.g., to develop personalized dietary recommendations. This will greatly help in preventing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, in which diet is an important factor, but may also have implications for treating or preventing other types of diseases.

“Our research can provide an opportunity to predict how a specific individual will react to a specific diet and thus enable individualized dietary plans that suit the person’s gut and microbial communities. This may give greater motivation to follow the individualized advice instead of the more generic dietary recommendations,” says Tine Rask Licht.

The Foundation has awarded Tine Rask Licht almost 60 million Danish kroner for the research project called PRIMA – towards Personalized Dietary Recommendations Based on the Interaction between Diet, Microbiome and Abiotic Conditions in the Gut. The project is a collaboration between research groups at DTU, the University of Copenhagen and KU Leuven in Belgium.

According to the Novo Nordisk Foundation, PRIMA was chosen as the recipient of the grant, because there is a need to better understand the link between diet and the human microbiome, which will make it possible to use diet in a targeted manner to improve our lives and health. Because of its unique focus on bacteria, the project can lead to new strategies for preventing diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which can be partly remedied by dietary changes.

Source: DTU

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