The Healthiest Microbiome

While looking around the internet for something to write about, I came across the blog of Jeff Leach, the founder of the Human Food Project. In his blog, he discusses what will be his year-long journey to “the healthiest gut microbiome in the world”. He discusses how he will be altering his diet in many ways over a year and keeping fecal samples throughout in order to figure out how different aspects of his diet will affect his gut microbiome.  

There are two things that reading this blog about his plan for his journey caused me to think about. The first of these is the possibility that a person’s diet may underly a lot of the differences that we see in the microbiome. In class and in some blogs it has been discussed all of the things that can cause differences in the microbiome: culture, ethnicity, location, and education level, just to name a few. However, is it possible that the underlying cause of some of these differences could be the different diets associated with these factors? Each of these factors may cause a person to have a distinct diet, and these dietary differences could contribute to the differences of these groups that are seen in the microbiome. While I am sure that diet is not the only cause of these differences, as two people with identical diets probably would not have identical microbiomes, it may be a greater factor than we thought. 

The second thing that this blog made me think about was the idea of “the healthiest gut microbiome”. I know that this is a concept we have talked about some in class, but is there really a healthiest microbiome? It seems to me that if everyone’s microbiome is unique, how can we truly classify one microbiome as the healthiest? This is especially complicated because there are many different kinds of healthy people with different lifestyles that likely have different microbiomes. How do we classify what is healthy and what is not? The fact that some bacteria are harmful in some people and not harmful in others seems to complicate this issue. Perhaps it would be easier to classify what microbes (or combinations of microbes) are only detrimental in the gut, as opposed to finding which balance is best. 

The blog post from Jeff Leach can be found here:

2 thoughts on “The Healthiest Microbiome

  1. The article you presented is certainly interesting. I agree with you that it’s definitely difficult to label one microbiome as the healthiest when we all have a unique microbiome. Moreover, our microbiomes affect so many aspects of our lives from our weight to our behavior, so it would be difficult to say what is the healthiest in each category. However, I do think it would be fair to say the presence of certain microbes in our guts may allow certain individuals to claim the title of “healthiest microbiome” for weight management or another specific quality. I am curious about the microbiome of professional athletes and other individuals that are symbols of superior fitness. I wonder if average-joes like myself contain similar microbes. If not, I could adjust my eating behavior to alter my microbiome to a “healthier” state to match the pros… maybe it’ll help me put on some muscle! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I also came across this and found it very strange that he would strive for such a title. There are certainly aspects that increase the health of the body but I don’t know how you can qualify one microbiome specifically as healthier than another. I think a better description of what he seems to be doing is achieving his healthiest body by diversifying his microbiome.

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