Potential applications of metagenomics to assess the biological effects of food structure and function

Food Funct. 2016 Oct 12;7(10):4160-4169. doi: 10.1039/c6fo00317f.


Metagenomics, or the collective study of genomes is an important emerging area in microbiology and related fields, and is increasingly being recognized as a tool to characterize the microbial community structure and function of diverse sample types. Metagenomics compares sequences to existing databases to enable the identification of potential microbial reservoirs and predict specific functions; yet, metagenomics has not been widely applied to understand how changes in the food structure and composition affect microbial communities and their function in the human gut. Studies are needed to understand the digestion of food products, and to measure their effectiveness in preserving a healthy microbiome, as well as intestinal function. We suggest the use of metagenomics with validation techniques such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), cloning and functional assays to assess the biological effects of food structure and function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Digestion
  • Humans
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Metagenomics*
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • Milk / chemistry*