Food: a new form of personalised (gut microbiome) medicine for chronic diseases?

J R Soc Med. 2016 Sep;109(9):331-6. doi: 10.1177/0141076816658786.


Filling in the knowledge gaps between what we eat and the diseases we develop may lie in our guts, literally. The human large intestine houses the largest reservoir of microorganisms in or on the human body. With a 100-fold greater gene count than humans, the gut microbiome has huge potential to place a large metabolic burden (or advantage) on its host. The number of diverse gut microbial species is diminished in nearly all modern chronic conditions studied. The 'Western diet', rich in animal protein, fats and artificial additives, and lacking in fibre, beneficial microbes, plant phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, is thought to drive these conditions by encouraging gut dysbiosis. Evidence from recent dietary intervention studies suggest adopting a plant-based, minimally processed high-fibre diet may rapidly reverse the effects of meat-based diets on the gut microbiome. However, recent work has shown that individual diet responses may be complicated by host genetics and the wide variation in the gut microbiome. Now that we measure genes and microbes more accurately, we are embarking on an exciting era of using both food and microbes as potential therapies.

Keywords: Diet; gut; microbiome; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Diet*
  • Dysbiosis / complications*
  • Dysbiosis / diet therapy
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans