FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Sunday Tasmanian - - Body+soul Health -

Mi­cro­biome ex­pert Rob Knight, from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in San Diego, says the tests have tremen­dous po­ten­tial, but adds: “I don’t think we know enough yet to be able to make per­son­alised di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions with great con­fi­dence.”

Some cus­tomers have ques­tioned the re­li­a­bil­ity of the tests af­ter get­ting con­trast­ing results from dif­fer­ent ser­vices. For ex­am­ple, Tami Lieber­man of Har­vard Univer­sity blogged about get­ting dif­fer­ent results from uBiome and sim­i­lar firm Amer­i­can Gut af­ter send­ing them sep­a­rate por­tions of the same stool.

Th­ese dis­crep­an­cies most likely come down to the dif­fer­ent meth­ods firms use to pre­pare sam­ples, ex­tract and se­quence DNA, and in­ter­pret the data, says Knight.

With in­creas­ing in­ter­est in mi­cro­biome health, there’s a risk that some com­pa­nies will make over­in­flated prom­ises, says Lough­man. We’ve al­ready seen some genome-se­quenc­ing firms make ques­tion­able claims about be­ing able to pick the per­fect work­out based on a cus­tomer’s DNA. “It’s ripe for the same kind of thing be­cause there’s so much money and pub­lic in­ter­est in gut health.”

For the time be­ing, Knight says that mi­cro­biome se­quenc­ing should be viewed as a fun sci­ence project rather than a re­li­able way to en­hance health. “If you’re in­ter­ested in the process and find­ing out more about who you are and what’s in­side you, then go for it, but it’s not a way to over­come health prob­lems yet,” he says.

Nev­er­the­less, both Knight and Lough­man are op­ti­mistic that gut mi­cro­biome se­quenc­ing will help peo­ple im­prove their health in the fu­ture. “I think this is the start of some­thing that could be extremely pow­er­ful,” says Lough­man.

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