May 12, 2022 7 min read
The concept of personalised medicine has been on the agenda for a while, with healthcare professionals moving towards a tailored and personalised clinical model. It’s an exciting prospect because it would mean clinical diagnosis would be faster based on your own unique situation, and treatments could be tailored to you, limiting side effects and boosting effectiveness[i].
But what if it was possible to modulate the human gut microbiome and, in turn, improve health through personalised advice? Now, it looks like that may be possible, thanks to the ground-breaking discoveries being made by the UK led PREDICT studies.
So far, the studies have suggested that a complex interplay exists between the inhabitants of the gut microbiome, diet, and health status. The researchers have even shown that specific microbes may also play a role in host responses and effects after meals (blood glucose and fat levels) which may have a long-term effect on health and weight[ii].
In this article, we take a look at the PREDICT 1 study, its key findings in relation to the gut microbiome, and introduce some of the key gut microbes that may play a significant role.
If we could see into the future, there’s no doubt many things will have changed, and we see huge differences today compared to just 20 to 30 years ago. In the 90s, the text messaging revolution began. It felt new and exciting. Fast forward to 2022, and most of us can now send voice messages, use emojis to communicate, and video calling has even become the new norm.
What’s that got to do with anything? Well, technology has rapidly evolved which has had a huge impact on our personal and work lives. Plus, healthcare and medicine have also advanced massively. It appears that the way we eat may also be subject to change.
Metabolic illnesses have become a huge burden on health services across the western world and beyond. According to a worldwide survey conducted in 2015 across 195 countries, 604 million adults and 108 million children were obese[iii]. Those figures are staggering, and treatments are often based on a one size fits all approach, like calorie or carb counting, and diet and exercise plans.
But more recent research has shown that personalised recommendations can be made based on a person’s unique physiology, including the composition of their gut microbiome. Thanks to PREDICT (Personalised Responses to Dietary Composition Trial), the largest, in-depth nutritional research program in the world, researchers are learning more about individual responses to food as well as the impact of lifestyle factors.
The PREDICT 1 trial involved 1102 healthy twin and unrelated adults in the United Kingdom (plus 100 from a US cohort). Researchers assessed the postprandial metabolic responses, blood triglyceride, and glucose and insulin levels following the consumption of identical meals, both in a clinical setting and at home. The aim of the study was to assess how postprandial responses to meals were affected by a range of factors, including:
In this article, we are going to focus on the results collected from the study related to the gut microbiome, but first, let’s have a short gut microbiome recap.
According to the ZOE research team, there are six major findings from the PREDICT studies, of which there have been six studies so far:
The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem consisting of trillions of microbes. Many of these microbes live in harmony with you and are critical for human health. That’s because the human gut microbiome has important roles in:
The composition and diversity of the gut microbiome has been shown to have a major influence on both health and disease, including the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and cancer. The gut microbiome has also been shown to have a major impact on host metabolism both directly and indirectly through the diet. So, a low bacterial diversity has been found in individuals with chronic illnesses such as:
The PREDICT 1 study has shown that the composition of the gut varies from person to person and that even identical twins can have vastly different gut microbiomes. In fact, every single one of us is unique when it comes to our gut microbes because we all have a unique set of genetic variants or strains of each microbial species in the gut. Interestingly, genes only have a small influence over the composition of your gut microbiome, which means you have the power to modify it through your diet.
The unique thing about the PREDICT 1 study is that through the analysis of microbiome data collected from stool samples, alongside health metrics such as blood pressure, age, and body mass index as well as diet and postprandial responses, researchers were able to identify 15 ‘good’ and 15 ‘bad’ bacteria strains.
By ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ the researchers mean 15 bacterial strains that are associated with good or positive health markers and 15 that are linked to poor or bad health. The PREDICT 1 study found a strong link between diet quality and the composition of the gut microbiome. They found that certain compositions were strongly linked to healthy and unhealthy foods or dietary patterns, and these were also associated with specific health markers, such as those for obesity.
The study found that the microbes associated with good health outcomes were found in individuals who followed a diet high in healthy plant-based foods and fibre but also in people who consumed healthy animal-based foods like oily fish, shellfish, eggs, and yoghurt. It was similar for the abundance of ‘bad microbes, too. Here, the researchers saw a pattern in people who consumed unhealthy plant and unhealthy animal-derived foods and their microbiome composition.
The key here is to eat a balanced and diverse diet because individuals who ate meat could also display a ‘healthy’ gut microbiome as long as their diet was varied. That’s not all, the study also established a link between what a person’s gut microbiome looks like (healthy or unhealthy) and specific cardiometabolic biomarkers, such as:
What that means is that certain microbes can affect your risk of developing some chronic conditions including, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity. According to the PREDICT 1 study, a healthy diet is one that has a variety of foods that are associated with a lower risk of chronic disease. A diet such as this, or one that is high in plant-based foods, means individuals who consume it are more likely to have a greater abundance of ‘good’ gut microbes and a lower risk of illness.
The PREDICT 1 study has identified 15 good gut microbes that are linked to positive diet and health indicators. They are:
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be bringing you an in-depth look at the 15 bacterial species labelled as ‘good’ by the PREDICT 1 study. So, get ready to be amazed at the purpose, functions, and even the names of some of these incredible microbes.
The PREDICT series of studies, including PREDICT 1, is the largest, in-depth nutritional program in the world. The PREDICT 1 study helped to define links between a person’s diet, gut microbiome, and cardiometabolic health biomarkers from a cohort of 1100 participants.
The findings from the study have shown how important the gut microbiome is in determining human health, as well as showing that it is able to be modified, through diet, making it the perfect target for personalised nutrition.
Remember, you can support your own gut microbiome and help to improve its diversity with our PureHMO® human milk oligosaccharide prebiotics. Take a look at our range here.
[i] England, N., 2022. NHS England » Personalised medicine. [online] England.nhs.uk. Available at: <https://www.england.nhs.uk/healthcare-science/personalisedmedicine/> [Accessed 5 May 2022].
[ii] 2. ZOE Science. Rethinking the future of nutrition. ZOE Science; 2020 p. 25-28.
[iii] Saklayen MG. The Global Epidemic of the Metabolic Syndrome. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2018 Feb 26;20(2):12. doi: 10.1007/s11906-018-0812-z. PMID: 29480368; PMCID: PMC5866840.
[iv] Valdes A M, Walter J, Segal E, Spector T D. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health BMJ 2018; 361 :k2179 doi:10.1136/bmj.k2179
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