Trust your gut, be­cause you can’t change it

Metro Canada (Ottawa) - - World - Science Ques­tion?

De­spite all the hys­te­ria over grains and gluten in re­cent years, if you’re rea­son­ably well-in­formed you prob­a­bly know a few ba­sic facts about bread. For in­stance, tra­di­tion­ally pre­pared whole grain bread is bet­ter than re ined white bread, both for your health and for the com­mu­nity of bac­te­ria in your gut (a.k.a. your mi­cro­biome).

But a new study by the Canadian In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Re­search calls that into ques­tion. They fed peo­ple the equiv­a­lent of three pieces of bread each morn­ing for a week, ei­ther white bread or whole wheat sour­dough bread. Later the groups switched.

Sur­pris­ingly, the health changes that come from eat­ing tons of bread, such as lower choles­terol and lower lev­els of some min­er­als, were the same re­gard­less of the bread type con­sumed.

Nei­ther of the breads seemed to cause changes to peo­ple’s mi­cro­biomes, ei­ther in terms of the types of bac­te­ria in the gut or their abun­dance. Ev­ery­one’s gut bac­te­ria are speci ic to them, and very re­sis­tant to changes in diet.

Weird­est of all: About half the peo­ple saw a spike in blood sugar af­ter eat­ing white bread; while half spiked on the sour­dough. What’s “health­ier” for one per­son is not health­ier for an­other. And how you re­spond to a par­tic­u­lar bread, the au­thors wrote, de­pends on your mi­cro­biome.

It’s mind-bend­ing. And that’s typ­i­cal of mi­cro­biome science. It’s an emerg­ing ield. The tech­nol­ogy that lets sci­en­tists look at the ge­net­ics of a bunch of bac­te­ria all at once is su­per new. We’re learn­ing, slowly, that our bac­te­ria have a fun­da­men­tal role in umpteen as­pects of health and dis­ease, but the de­tails and ap­pli­ca­tions are just start­ing to be un­der­stood. This is the ideal sci­enti ic en­vi­ron­ment for BS to grow. No won­der so many peo­ple are try­ing to change their mi­cro­biome with fad di­ets. As cell bi­ol­o­gist Jim Wood­gett once told me, “The gut is a pro it cen­tre for much quack science.” Bot­tom line: It’s harder than you think to budge your mi­cro­biome.

cit­i­zen­sci­en­tist@metronews.ca

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