Lab+Life Scientist Feb/Mar 2017

Page 33

gut health


Adam Florance

Nitrogen key to gut health Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre are at the forefront of a new study that may help us predict the ideal diet for optimal gut health. A collaboration between Australian and Norwegian scientists, this new research has developed the first general principles on the impact dietary balance plays on microbiota.


ntestinal nitrogen is the key to regulating

explained, “There are many ways to achieve a good

we eat in a way that doesn’t require cooperation

interactions between the microbes that live in

diet, and the same diet won’t work in the same

this lets bacteria do whatever they want — and

our gut and their host organism. Lead author

way in each person. The next step will be to more

mischief can ensue.”

Associate Professor Andrew Holmes, from the

rapidly characterise which dietary combinations

Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and

promote the best outcomes for each of our gut

Environmental Sciences, said, “There are many

microbiomes, and to this end we are developing

Professor Holmes added, “The largest nutrient

different diet strategies that claim to promote gut

a computer simulation for how this might work

requirements for our gut bacteria are carbon and

health, and until now it has been very difficult to

in practice.”

nitrogen in the foods we eat. As carbohydrates

establish clear causality between various types of diet and their effect on the host’s microbiome.” Diverse factors such as genetics, eating patterns and food composition have made it difficult to

This mischief can lead to problems like diabetes and obesity.

Previous studies identified patterns on how diet

contain no nitrogen but protein does, the bacterial

influences gut health but were unable to achieve

community response to the host animal’s diet is

a workable model explaining microbial responses

strongly affected by this diet’s protein-carbohydrate

to different types of diets.

ratio ... the microbial ecosystem is fundamentally

determine optimal strategies for promoting gut

Professor Holmes said, “This research

health, but now researchers will be able to develop

really lays the groundwork for future modelling

more accurate computer simulations, testing

by setting out the rules for a general model of

Published in Cell Metabolism, the research was

multiple diet variants, to predict ideal dietary

how diet shapes the gut ecosystem. The simple

led by the University of Sydney team in conjunction


explanation is that when we eat in a way that

with EWOS Innovation of Norway, the ANZAC

Co-author Professor Stephen Simpson,

encourages cooperation between ourselves and

Research Institute, Concord Hospital and the

academic director of the Charles Perkins Centre,

bacteria we achieve a good microbiome, but when

University of Western Australia. |

shaped by a need to access nitrogen in the intestinal environment.”

LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - Feb/Mar 2017 | 33