HOW DOES DIET AFFECT THE MICROBIOME?
It is clear that alterations in diet have enormous impact on the gut microbiome. Individuals who switch from a high sugar, high fat “Western” diet to a low fat or a high fiber diet experience very distinct microbiome changes. Interestingly, a return to the original diet normally restores a person’s microbiome to its original state suggesting that in general the microbiome is very stable for a particular person over a long period of time. Regardless, these results demonstrate the diet can have a dramatic influence on the human microbiome.
Microbial diversity is thought to be important for human health. A fibrous diet that promotes microbial diversity, in turn, produces metabolic diversity that is highly beneficial to our health. Furthermore, the high sugar, high fat Western diets are thought to lead to a lack of microbial diversity, resulting in poorer nutritional health. Interestingly, many individuals with metabolic disorders, such as insulin resistance, are thought to have difficulty restoring microbial diversity once it is lost. Thus, prolonged exposure to a Western diet may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes that is difficult to reverse. A better understanding of how to repopulate a beneficial microbiome in individuals is desirable and provides an interesting therapeutic opportunity. Overall, it is likely that we will need to understand our metabolome, microbiome, and food collectively in order to manage our health.