Sunday, April 13, 2014

Healthy Bugs DNA

TAG of the Week:

We have learned the impact of the human genome, epigenome and environment. 
One more genome resides inside of us - the microbiome. 

Listen to the NPR clip or read the NPR newsletter. 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/08/243929866/can-we-eat-our-way-to-a-healthier-microbiome-its-complicated

Discuss ways doctors and consumers could consider prescribing ways to eat our way to a healthy lifestyle (i.e. use examples about our readings on nutrigenomics, microbiome, epigenetics, fitness, behavioral ... etc). 

Or Please choose one of the following and comment:
1. You can share the new, 'surprising' information you learned
2. Ask a question that needs additional clarification,
3. Share a news link relevant to the discussion. 
4. Reply to another student's comment.

72 comments:

  1. Based on what we have learned in class and read in the articles on food/food nutrients and our genome, I think it would be kind of hard to prescribe ways to eat our way to a healthy lifestyle. I think that what we read about in our blog and class readings about a month ago on obesity and early life would prove to have fruitful results. That is, doctors could prescribe mothers (as I'm sure they already do) to eat very healthfully during the pregnancy, not eat fatty foods which we know can lead to obesity in the baby later in life and other issues for mom and baby, and to supplement some nutrients they might not be getting. Then, doctors could convince families and parents of the importance of the life course perspective model, so that they not only feed their baby the most important nutrients and foods during pregnancy, they continue to instill good eating habits and supplemental nutrients if necessary throughout their lives. This way, babies are protected from the epigenetic environmental effects of a family history of eating fatty foods, as well as benefiting from what we know to be healthy micronutrients.

    I do not think the readings on fitness should have as much effect when it comes to doctors' prescriptions to their patients. Even if there are some genes that make someone more apt for fitness or exercise in general, we know that these genes are not definitive markers of aptitude or ability and they also interact with many other genes, as well as the environment. So, having the gene doesn't mean that you should exercise or shouldn't exercise. Therefore, doctors and consumers should still encourage exercise based on its benefits to our bodies and health as a whole, regardless of our genetics. I think the way to a healthy lifestyle relies in what we eat but also in exercise, but it is our diet that can influence the lifestyle habits of our children and their children.

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  2. In addition to the articles I read for class and the article mentioned above, I read another article by Michael Pollan entitled "Some of My Best Friends are Germs" that discusses his experience when he gets his microbiome sequenced. Before these articles, I had no idea what the term microbiome referred to. I was very surprised at Pollan's statement that " we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes... To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial." I never think about the fact that there are over 100 trillion bacteria on my skin, in my mouth and intestines, etc. I think it is very interesting and likely that will soon have the knowledge to reshape and even cultivate these microbes through what we eat to be healthier, prevent obesity, avoid other gastrointestinal diseases, and improve our immune systems.

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  3. In the future, it’s possible that doctors could prescribe certain foods to increase healthy bacteria in our bodies because I think that each person’s microbiome is unique. Otherwise, I agree with Stephanie – it’s incredibly difficult to prescribe ways to eat healthier, and I don’t know what else they can do. I think that we as a society have started to realize that fresh foods are the best for our health. But, the author wrote that in “the absence of pesticides, a lot of veggies turn on their natural defenses in order to fight off insects, and those defenses can be toxic to humans.” This is extremely interesting, but I haven’t yet heard of anyone getting sick because of organic food. Which “defenses” are toxic to humans? People have been paying a lot of money for organic food, and to say it’s not that healthy is something that needs to be explored. In regards to our other readings, fitness, epigenetics, and nutrigenomics are all influenced by lifestyle choices. I think that we shouldn’t look too much into genetics as the source (in some cases, blame) for our “unhealthy” lifestyles. People should be held accountable for their actions, and should they have a gene that makes it harder for them to make the right decision or impacts them negatively in some way, then doctors could try and help them through it.

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    1. Similarly to Anika, I was very confused when the article discussed the “natural defenses” of vegetables that arise when pesticides are no longer used. So, I found an article discussing a study that set out to specifically accomplish this situation. This study successfully altered the circadian rhythms of the plants, resulting in a surplus production of glucosinolates and other products viewed as undesirable by those who feed on them (i.e caterpillars and such). Yet, a quick Google search about glucosinolates brings back pages and pages of sites raving about the health benefits of this compound, which contradicts what is said in the article. When looking at the NPR blog that discusses these so-called “toxic” foods, this fear is clearly exaggerated because for many of the given examples, one would need to eat a ridiculous amount of the vegetable under specific, extremely uncommon, circumstances.

      Nevertheless, I do find the impact of the microbiome is interesting. However, I do not think that this is the end all be all. As discussed in class today, the microbiome is not permanent. It is constantly changing and adapting with the environment, our health and many other factors. I do not think that we should aim to prescribe a way to eat our way to a healthy lifestyle. Rather, I think we should focus more on epigenetics and try to be more aware of the impact of our everyday behaviors alongside our genetic predispositions.



      http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130620-circadian-rhythm-cabbage-vegetable-food-crop-science/

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/10/01/228221063/when-edible-plants-turn-their-defenses-on-us

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  4. There may come a day when each of us can profile our microbiome so that doctors may "prescribe" certain foods for a healthier lifestyle. Yet as the NPR piece explains, researchers are currently still very unsure of how everything fits together. Yet until then, I think it's extremely important to teach people just how important nutrition and healthy behaviors (like exercise) are. By educating the general public on the idea that what we eat plays a very important role in not only how our bodies look but also how our bodies operate in general, people may take the concept of a healthy lifestyle more seriously. As we've learned, eating right isn't just about being fat or skinny; instead, nutrition plays a huge role in our biological processes. The papers on epigenetics and nutrigenomics taught us that nutrition can influence how our genes are expressed, and this NPR piece shows that nutrition can influence our digestive health, as well. I find the concepts very interesting. I would also be curious to know how our genetics may or may not play a role in which bacteria actually colonize our gut. In any case, it's very important to understand just how important their nutrition is to living a healthy lifestyle.

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  5. The implications of microbiome research are very interesting. Few people know of the importance of the bacteria that lives in our bodies. These bacteria carry out crucial functions. Many of the papers we have read so far on nutrigenomics have shown that the foods we eat and our dietary patterns can greatly influence genetic expression. Diet is clearly important in overall health, but getting people to eat their way to a healthier lifestyle is difficult. One thing I always found interesting is why doctors can prescribe medication for diet related illnesses, but cannot prescribe any type of food. Perhaps a program in which doctors can prescribe food to patients and then said patients can receive a discount when purchasing certain foods, thereby encouraging them to eat healthier. It is also important to make sure that people are aware of the importance of nutrition. Nutrition counseling could be built in to primary care to give the patient more direct access to proper information.

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  6. I really like the point that Patrick Curran has brought up: doctors can prescribe medications but cannot prescribe any type of food. There is no subsidy for health eating habits like there is insurance coverage for drugs. In my opinion, what foods people eat, regardless of how they affect one's health, is up to the discretion of the eater. Restaurants and foods always have the nutrition labels listed, but honestly, who really minds them? There are lots of PSAs and promotions of active lifestyles, but not a lot of incentive. I think people don't realize the long term benefits of healthy dieting and active lifestyles and would rather settle for the instant gratification of some dessert or fast food. I think the most that the health and science world can do is educate people about healthy habits and lifestyles. It's important that people think about their health prospectively. Although one might not be able to see the immediate benefits, in the long run trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is such an important and beneficial type of primary prevention.

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  7. I may not know the exact statistics, but nowadays, it seems like more and more people are relying on medications, when really, some of it can be "cured" by exercising and eating the right foods. Now, I know some people require certain medications, however, on top of that depending on the patient, doctors should recommend their patients to look into nutrigenomics and have them focus more on what they are eating. It sounds easier said than done, however it can be a stepping stone for hospitals promoting nutrition on a large scale.
    On another note, there also seems to be many people taking action into considering what foods they eat and shopping for healthy foods. It seems many are aware of what they should and should not be putting in their grocery bags and are also taking action of going to the gym and living a healthy lifestyle. However, what's important is the people we don't see shopping for healthy foods and those we don't see going to the gym that we should be targeting and worried about, and have them understand the importance of a continuous, well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.

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  8. Honestly, in our current health care system, it doesn't seem possible for doctors to prescribe ways to "eat our way to a healthier lifestyle". Also, with most of the articles that we have read in these blogs, including this one posted above, it doesn't seem like any of the information is very conclusive. Everything seems to still be new information and in the works, which is interesting and all but not helpful in the short run for trying to figure out ways to help improve the specific problems. I think that there are a lot of great advances happening in medicine right now but it is all very premature. There is no way to tell how a doctor can help in the future when we aren't positive yet about exactly what we need to be addressing. Once there is more information on the Microbiome Project and what certain remedies can be useful, then if it is proven beneficial for doctors to prescribe ways for their patients to eat healthier a program could be set up to have that happen. However, currently, there is not enough information (in my opinion) to begin any changes along these lines.

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  9. I agree with Jayhee, that the healthcare field is focussing too much attention on treatment, instead of prevention. Only 3% of all US healthcare expenditures is invested in disease prevention, and many of the most costly, and prevalent diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some forms of cancers can be greatly reduced with good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

    I read a recent study in the Journal of National Cancer Institute which found that lack of diversity in gut microbiome leads to increased odds of colon cancer. They also found that lower levels of one specific type of bacteria, and higher levels of another, were associated with colon cancer (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131206163051.htm) The article concluded, “Because of the potentially modifiable nature of the gut bacteria, our findings may have implications for CRC prevention." With more research about our microbiome, and how it’s affected by our diet, doctors may soon be able to “prescribe” or recommend certain foods to prevent, or reduce the odds of many gastrointestinal diseases. This would save the healthcare field a lot of money, and would result in a healthier population. In the NPR clip from class on Tuesday, it was suggested that an individual’s microbiome could contribute to why some people are overweight. Obesity is linked to an increased risk of numerous diseases and it has become an epidemic in the US, so if we could reduce obesity, the effects would be profound.

    I’m sure it is much more beneficial to get your microbes naturally from your diet, the same way it’s better to eat an apple than take a vitamin C pill, but with the limited availability and high costs of produce, and the even bigger challenge of keeping it fresh without pesticides, while still preventing the produce from turning on it’s “natural defenses” mentioned in the article, maybe we will be able to develop a pill or some other type of supplement that we could take daily, to ensure we have the correct balance of microbes.

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  10. I think the ways in which Doctors can prescribe healthier eating towards a healthy micro biome are to make general assertions and recommend adding in the beneficial foods despite what microbes sit within our bodies. The article by Singh mentions that lead professor Leach recommended to Stein to eat more fiber and this suggestion was progressed to say that we all need more prebiotics. The science is sound behind the benefits of probiotics in the human gut and when the public can trust science, they will buy into it. Because our microbiome is not commonly analyzed, we don't know how accurate the food prescriptions are and more importantly, we do not know the statistics on the change in percent risk given back by feeding out bodies right.

    The article written by Angelina Jolie proves just how responsive the public is to sound statistics. When we hear something decreases our risk of cancer by almost 100%, people jump at the idea because its seen as an ultimate success. By generalizing the fact that eating health foods is better for the specific microorganisms in our body, it's not something people will sink their teeth into. I feel it's important for percentages of risk and benefit to be given in place of a prescription because this will determine how thoroughly a patient will stick to their health food diets. Because fitness has not be mentioned as associated with this, Doctors could try to push overall health and fitness, which could then be supplemented by the necessary need to feed the body well and eat foods which promote microbe health such as yogurt, garlic, vegetable fiber and so on.

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  11. Doctors could start prescribing consumers to eat their way to a healthier lifestyle by starting with the more general concept that America does not eat healthily, in many cases. While a doctor could do research or a test to say hey, you need more leeks, or you need less of this; the truth is that many Americans are not even eating vegetables at all. We don't need a genetic test when we have the staggering data about obesity facing our nation. This is also a difficult issue because I feel as though many Americans do know that obesity is a problems and that food they are eating is not healthy, but many do not have any other options.

    Doctor could consider this issue in the larger context, by encouraging all their patients to eat healthy and exercise. If it's not working out, maybe they need to try a different method. Only via hard work and collaboration with media campaigns can we begin to see a difference.

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  12. Doctors should definitely advise their patients to eat a very balance diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, and to stay away from processed foods. As we can see from the article, it is unknown what foods specifically help to improve the health of our microbiome, but scientists have noticed certain positive effects that vegetables that are high in fiber have had on the bacteria in our guts. There have also been foods that have been identified to be good sources of fiber that are not necessarily good for increasing the levels of good bacteria in our guts. There is still debate on how dramatically one must change their diet in order to see any change in the health of their microbiome. I think that the best advice a doctor can give at this point in the timetable of research of microbiomes is to incorporate as many whole vegetables as possible into a person’s diet in order to receive the proper amount of fiber, and therefore an increased number of probiotics into the gut lining. Physicians must also keep in mind to let their patients know of the role that fitness, genetics, and the environment plays on a person’s health. Specific foods that help increase good bacteria in one person may not have the exact same effects in another person’s body.

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  13. I’m not sure how exactly doctors would “prescribe” ways to eat rather than encourage and educate on ways to eat for a better lifestyle (more fresh fruits, veggies, etc). Based on the lifecourse perspective and the NPR article regarding the effect of a pregnant mother’s diet on the child, I believe the doctors should educate patients on the effects of diet and exercise on their health, which would be the first method of prevention. However, I understand that there are families, (even communities), that don’t have access to fresh fruits or veggies, so they purchase processed foods instead. Perhaps doctors can advocate for a program that delivers healthy foods to families that lack access to it, or open up a food pantry in these areas.

    In regards to the microbiome, more research must be done, as there are some gray areas such as whole grains having both a positive and negative effect. Until we fully understand which food affects our microbiome and to what extent it affects the microbiome, doctors won’t be able to prescribe foods to fit the patient’s needs.

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  14. Haniya Saleem SyedaApril 15, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    I think the implications of such research is interesting and has the potential to make dramatic improvements to healthcare. However, I do think it is difficult to "prescribe" a healthy diet that targets microbial health. First of all, as this NPR piece states, there's a lot known on the subject but researchers are still trying to figure out how health, food, and microbes all work together. There's needs to be a better understanding of the role of microbes in health before we can address health issues using microbes.

    I'm also concerned that too much focus on this can downplay the impact basic healthy habits can have. If doctors start putting focus on microbes and prescribing healthy diets personalized for individuals (which I don't think would ever be possible with the current health system given that most patients get no more than 15 minutes with their primary physician), will people react by cutting down on exercise or eating less fats which are also essential to one's health. I think this is a risk we take with all health crazes and all new diet related research, people become fanatic and start compromising other aspects crucial to good health thinking they've found the holy grail of healthy living. Doctor's should promote overall healthy eating and exercise, it's what we know leads to a healthy body and with healthy eating habits, it is likely that microbial health will follow.

    I also don't think our current healthcare system is equipped to have doctor's giving personalized diet advice. I think this should be left to specialists in the field and dietitians that are recommended to patients by their doctors. Not everyone needs a dietitian and a personalized diet if they have basic knowledge of healthy foods. It would be a waste of healthcare dollars and the doctor's time for those who don't need it to have a prescribed diet.

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  15. In response to Lauren as I am also a huge Michael Pollan's work, In his article "Some of My Best Friends are Germs", yes it is surprising that our microbe and bacteria and all these fascinating things we consider "germs" play a huge role in our lives. I have just recently learned that there are more good bacteria living on our appendix than cells we have in our body. This amazing fact does not diminish us as humans or make us 10% human but rather it is the idea that we are such a small part of what actually is happening throughout the body. Understanding the way good bacteria, microbes, etc work and their roles in our body will open a door to new treatment for disease. Non processed or minimally processed nutrient dense foods are essential to cultivate the bacteria population. We need to eat as fuel for our bodies and understand helpful roles of maintaining probiotics to balance our good bacteria population. Funny enough we are not just feeding ourselves but our bacteria friends too! I also agree with Haniya that our current doctors cannot be the be all end all. Doctors are people too and they cannot possibly be omniscient and omnipotent. Nutritionists should handle nutrition, genetic counselors should handle genetic testing along with a MD specialist. We need to work together to progress in the handling of our healthcare.

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  16. I had not heard of a microbiome before learning about it in lecture and in this article. However, I did know about commensal microorganism before. It was surprising to learn that there was so much more microorganisms than human cells in our body.

    As for the article, I don’t think that doctors can prescribe certain food to eat yet. They can only recommend what’s best for people and hope that they follow their advice. People have different tastes and preferences for food and the research on how diet affects your microbiome is relatively new.

    I also found this interesting post titled “Going Feral: my one-year journey to acquire the healthiest gut microbiome in the world (you heard me!)” that explored how diet changes one’s microbiome. It was interesting to see how drastically different the make-up of his gut microbiome was when he greatly reduced his fiber intake.

    http://humanfoodproject.com/going-feral-one-year-journey-acquire-healthiest-gut-microbiome-world-heard/

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    1. Michelle TagermanApril 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      There's a link in the article to a project called "American Gut," where for $99, they will 'sequence and analyze' your bacteria and send you a list of the types and abundance of each type of bacteria in your body. They have you fill out a survey about your lifestyle, diet, etc., to show you how "your bacterial community compares to others." While I don't see myself participating in the project, it's an interesting (and a little strange) concept!

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  17. Rob Knight's discussion on dietary fiber, such as the fact that it feeds the good bacteria in our bodies and without the fiber this good bacteria would in turn start eating away at our mucus lining of our large intestine, hints at the notion that we could in fact start eating our way to a healthier lifestyle. Encouraging pregnant women to eat in a certain way could likely in turn make their babies healthier because as seen in the NPR video clip, the microbiomes that babies get come from their mothers in the birth canal as well as during breastfeeding. We also have seen that prebiotics exist, which act to feed and nourish the probiotics that we have, so that they will be stronger. The fact that some of the probiotics were capable enough to even make their own antibiotics to fight infections, according to the video, was truly a marvel, and leads me to believe that eating the right things to keep the microbiome in the best possible "shape" could enhance our immune functioning altogether. This certainly would warrant a healthier lifestyle, but beyond that, fitness certainly may also tie into this healthier lifestyle phenomenon. For instance, the NPR clip suggests that we may be losing important probiotics in our guts and in our bodies because of all of the medications that we are given and prescribed today, for any number of reasons. Reducing the number of medications you take and taking a more natural approach to life through eating right and exercising may prove to have positive consequences when it comes to our overall health.

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  18. Diet has always been an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Many of us have been told countless times to eat our fruits and vegetables. I knew that fiber was good for the digestive tract, but until reading the NPR newsletter did not realize exactly why. It is interesting to note that fiber can serve as food for the bacteria in our gut, thus promoting better digestive health.

    However, these findings do not come without their limitations. Even though fiber is important, drastic changes could possibly not be beneficial. For example, if a person increases their fiber intake dramatically, but does not increase their water intake, it may not help the digestive tract as needed. Eating to feed the good bacteria in our digestive system is a good thing to consider, and we also have to consider the bigger picture around us, like our other behaviors and lifestyle choices.

    Our health is based on a combination of many different genomes and environmental factors around us. Our diet can affect our microbiome, but so can our hygiene practices. Physical fitness is another aspect that can improve our health. Environmental factors such as smoking or pollution can also negatively impact our health.

    The NPR newsletter was definitely interesting, and I would like to see more in depth (higher sample size, perhaps) studies on the effect of our diet on our microbiome. Do people respond to different amounts of fiber (for example)? How much may be too much? These are some other questions I would think about, though learning about the microbiome is another interesting piece of the puzzle that is our health.

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  19. Some people have mentioned the idea of stressing a healthy diet in mothers when pregnant, which was brought up both in the life-course perspective as well as this notion of microbiome’s affecting our health. When reading the NPR article, it brought up how Crohns disease is considered a disease that is caused by a disrupted microbiome in the gut. This particularly peaked my interest as I’ve watched my little cousin struggle with Crohns for the past few years, undergoing several surgeries. I would say that my cousins diet is terrible- consisting of a lot of fast food, processed food, and little fruit and vegetables. Despite the numerous times that doctors and family members alike have stressed changing their entire families diet, my older cousins argues that my little cousin simply won’t eat “healthy” food because she doesn’t like it.

    Although I know that prescribing certain types of food seems impractical right now, there are a lot of possible positive implications that could be had if this was explored more and implemented in the future. If my little cousin was prescribed certain types of vegetables, fiber, etc. that would benefit her health, I feel as though they would be more likely to follow through. They have the education; they know that they should be eating healthier. However, all the education in the world can’t coerce someone to actually take the steps to go out and get healthy food.

    As the article addresses, a lot would need to be done to study how certain foods affect the entire biome. The system is very complex and differs for everyone. However, I think that more research into what foods are truly beneficial and in what amount could do wonders for people like my little cousin, who with a prescription may feel compelled and obliged to follow through and get the healthy food.

    With that, I think that doctors could convince people to use a prescription for food if they offer a discounted price of certain healthy foods with a prescription. People may be more likely to follow through if there are incentives such as insurance covering the healthy food if a person really needs it, specifically if they have a disease that is affected by a disrupted microbiome in the gut.

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  20. In order for their patients to live healthier live doctors should prescribe healthier eating patterns for their patients. As others have mentioned, health is a complex state. Eating vegetables full of fiber as the article mentioned is not only good for microbiome organisms but for overall health. Researcher Rob Knight himself stated that the associations of microbes and health are not directly understood. Eating a balanced diet full of foods known to be associated with positive microbe health, however, would be a good recommendation for doctors to give their patients as the symbiotic relationship between microorganisms living in and on humans provides humans with beneficial nutrients when properly maintained.

    As we have discussed in class, health relies not only on the different bodily genomes but on environmental interactions, hygiene, and physical activity as well. Reading Singh's article, however, makes it apparent that more research must be done to directly see the linkage between the microbiome and health. Although most medicines and prescriptions work without fully understanding their interactions in the body, focusing solely on one factor of overall health may not be the most efficient way to increase health but ensuring all factors associated with health are maintained is the best recommendation doctors can make.

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  21. Michelle TagermanApril 16, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Given our class discussion on Tuesday, I found the NPR interview Modern Medicine May Not Be Doing Your Microbiome Any Favors to be very interesting. Dr. Martin Blaser, an ‘expert on the human microbiome,’ says our overuse of antibiotics and our practice of having cesarean sections (when medically unnecessary) are responsible for the rising number of certain diseases. He theorizes that such modern practices have been disrupting our microbiome.

    Blaser cites a study done on mice which tested the potential link between antibiotic use and obesity. It found that mice got fat when put on a high-fat diet (not surprisingly), and also when they were put in antibiotics. What makes this study interesting is that when the mice were fed a high-fat diet and given antibiotics, they got very fat. He concludes that “it’s clear that the effects of the antibiotic potentiate the effects of the high-fat diet.” This is important, considering our widespread use of antibiotics, not only to treat bacterial infections, but also in our food, and the recent ‘obesity epidemic.’ Blaser is careful to point out that antibiotics do not cause obesity, but they may be a factor. This is similar to the study about the ‘obesity gene,’ which also points out that such mutation may be a factor or contribute to obesity in people who are already at a high risk for being overweight, but it does not cause it. It’s important for people to realize that having the mutation or taking many antibiotics is not the main determining factor of whether or not a person is obese; we can not forgot the important of eating a healthy, low fat diet, and exercising.

    While more studies need to be done in order to prove a causal relationship between antibiotics and obesity, it is definitely something that is worth considering.

    Source: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/14/302899093/modern-medicine-may-not-be-doing-your-microbiome-any-favors

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  22. I found the article “Can We Eat Our Way to a Healthier Microbiome? It’s Complicated” extremely interesting. I had never really given much thought to my microbiome, and have never thought much about how it could influence my health. I wanted to read more on the topic, and found an article entitled “Chowing Down on Meat, Dairy Alters Gut Bacteria A Lot, and Quickly” written by Michaeleen Doucleff. She writes about a study published in the journal Nature, that examined which diet—animal based or plant based—has a better effect on your microbiome. Researchers instructed volunteers to go on an extreme animal-based diet for five days, and then, after a break, volunteers went on an extreme plant-based diet for five days. Researchers analyzed the volunteers’ microbiomes before, during, and after each diet, and the effects of the extreme animal-based diet were seen right away. In particular, Bilophila, or bile-lovers, became abundant in volunteers’ guts during the animal-based diet. Bilophila have been found to promote inflammation, affecting overall health. While there are some limitations to this study, and much more research to be done, the results are extremely interesting, and give good evidence for sticking to a plant-based diet.

    Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/10/250007042/chowing-down-on-meat-and-dairy-alters-gut-bacteria-a-lot-and-quickly

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  23. Before this week's lecture and readings, I had never really considered the microbiome to have such a profound influence on the human genome. Through DNA sequencing, researchers have been able to identify many microbes and have begun relating them to diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and obesity. Neuropsychological disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, might even be relieved by the microbiome because microbes have the ability to increase the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. As more and more research solidifies the influence of the microbiome on human health and disease, doctors and consumers could consider incorporating more garlic into their treatment regimens and diets, like the NPR article suggests. Garlic is known to lower cholesterol, and I think it's interesting to find out it can also attack pathogens in our guts.
    A beverage that doctors could recommend to patients and consumers is kombucha, a naturally carbonated and fermented tea. This fermented drink has active bacteria and yeast that restores the proper balance of bacteria in the gut. While this sounds off-putting, kombucha comes in many flavors and tastes great. It seems like eating our way to a healthier microbiome falls under the study of nutrigenomics, and I'm very interested in following research on the idea.

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  24. I never considered the fact that different microorganisms found in/on our bodies (such as on our skin or in our gut) plays a part in our lives in many different ways. It can play a part in how healthy we are, how often we get sick, and even a person’s ability to gain or lose weight. The clip we listened to in class made an interesting point, that our bodies are really just a haven for thousands of microorganisms. There must be some sort of balance of these microorganisms that can help a person live an optimal and healthy life. It is important to also consider if this balance is generalizable, or if maybe each person has a different perfect balance of their microbiome based on epigenetic factors.

    I also was very interested in the discussion in class about how a person may be able to be traced through the unique microorganisms that live on your skin. The thought that if you touch something, the bacteria you leave there can be traced all the way back to those living on your person. I also think this type of investigating has a huge amount of space for error. There needs to be a large amount of studies on a person’s microbiome, what determines it, and how it may change throughout their lifetime. This will also help researchers to better understand how variations in what we eat may change our microbiome and possible improve a person’s life.

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  25. Doctors should encourage and educate patients about eating these foods to affect the microbiome. While it is generally understood that eating certain foods, for example fresh vegetables, are good for your body, patients don't necessarily understand why they are good. For example, while I knew that eating garlic is most likely beneficial to the body, I had no idea that it acts as an antibiotic for harmful bacteria, while serving as a prebiotic for our own "good" bacteria. Education and "prescription" can be done in conjunction with a registered dietitian.
    Another important thing for doctors to consider is access to healthy foods. There are some populations with limited or no access to fresh foods, limiting their options. Doctors and patients should advocate for a type of program that encourages farmers markets or other ways of making fresh food more accessible.
    Also further research must be done on "prescribing" foods to patients. For example, the article mentioned that some plants without pesticide may resort to their own toxic defenses and that whole grain has caused inflammatory responses in certain populations.

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  26. After reading this article, I looked up Michael Pollan's article on the microbiome, called "Some of My Best Friends are Germs," mentioned in this article we had to read for the blog. I really like reading Michael Pollan's viewpoints on different issues of diet. I have read a lot of his stuff before and he is an expert on food and brings up a lot of good points. In this particular article, he brings up how there are different microbiotas in Americans and Europeans than those of rural Africans and Amerindians. He associates this difference to the fact that Americans and Europeans may be eating more processed food and some of the processed food is causing different levels of microbes than those of rural Africans and Amerindians. The Africans and Amerindians have higher levels of a particular bacteria in their microbiomes and Americans and Europeans have a lot less. Michael Pollan theorizes that this is because in rural communities, they deal with plants and soils and touch things that people in America do not normally touch everyday (especially if they're living in an urban setting) and also the fact that people in rural communities are more likely to eat more plants and less meat. Michael Pollan actually got his microbiome evaluated and found that he had similar microbiota to that of the rural Africans and Amerindians. He claims this could be because he eats a whole plant based diet. Therefore, the perspective of this article by Michael Pollan claims that what you eat does affect the kind of microbiome you have inside of you and agrees with the standpoint of the article from NPR.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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  27. I like how eating your way towards a better health is being considered. It seems nowadays a lot of people are looking towards quick fixes from antibiotics, or so. Because of this, there is a rise of microbes that are resistant to many antibiotics. The only way I can see out of this is prevention, which includes the natural approach: eating foods to a better health, as opposed to relying on medicine and anything artificial. Another option is to genetically modify foods by treating it with vaccines so when people eat the foods, diseases can be eradicated. The food can enhance the digestion or absorption of the treatment as well.

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  28. This new information on the microbiome, like many of the other topics we have discussed, is truly fascinating. Knowing that we could sequence the bacteria in our gut and then combine this with nurtigenomics to potentially create a “super diet”, so to speak, is amazing news. This diet could ensure that people get the foods that will make them the healthiest people possible. I think this is great news considering the fact that the obese amount of people in the world is so large and the health effects are so detrimental. If people can have personalized diets and instructions on what to eat to maximize health I think it would lessen frustrations about trying and failing on diets. It could transform the behaviors of people dieting because they have the knowledge of what will work for them. Then combining this new diet with fitness could cause huge life changes for the world. Any benefits from healthy lifestyles will then be passed down through epigenetic changes turning on “healthy” genes positively effecting generations to come. Unhealthy lifestyles cause huge health problems here in the U.S. and this is such an easy problem to solve. Getting more and more information about our bodies and how to make them the more efficient and healthy is fantastic news and I can’t wait to see the effects this could have on society. For all we know microbiome could unlock key information to transform people’s lives. As many others have already stated until the time when nutrigenomics and microbiome research is more concrete then staying fit and having healthy behaviors should be encouraged to not only help people now but in the future too.

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    1. Jessica ThermitusApril 18, 2014 at 3:55 PM

      I think nick makes a great point . To be able to create super foods that could provide the most optimally enriched diet can really be something we can look forward to in genomics research. From a public health perspective this would be that withn communities where fresh healthy food isnt readily available, areas designated as food desserts to see how these new healthy foods can provide optimal nutritional boosts for those deprived.

      On a different note, what we learned this week has kept me up some nights! Honestly, this topic was somewhat scary to me. Of course all of this research and these theories are so wonderful but what makes me skeptical and apprehensive is the nature of microorganisms. We know that evolution in these biological bugs is so rapid that we will only be able to control them to an extent. The clips that we saw in class regarding resistance in microbes as a result of antibiotics really stroke me as alarming. Alarming only because with the more advances we make the more resistance in microbiomes we are left to dealt with.

      Sitting and reflecting on that information has just left me with the following questions 1. Would it be in our best interest to continue developing stronger and stronger antibiotics or can we consider 2. Using less stronger antiobiotics to encourage a deevolution in the super strains of microorganisms.

      Im also concerned about what genome effects antibiotics are having on other members of our ecosystems...fish? Plants? Wildlife? Are our advances causing the development of super microorganisms in the microbiomes of thise groups as well?

      So much to think about...very troubling for me to digest this new information.

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  29. All of this information about microbiome studies and about the types of food that could contribute to better health is very interesting. I never thought about the connection between our microbiomes and our health, but it makes sense that if we ate a healthier diet that maybe our genes would change and then be passed down to future generations. From the article and the lecture, there is a lot more work and research that needs to be done before we know how our microbiomes truly affect our genetics though. It is interesting that in the future, doctors may be able to write a "food prescription" and help people to know which foods are good for their personal bodies and how this will ultimately affect their health and genome. Combining this research with fitness programs could have a great impact on the health of future generations and I look forward to seeing how this topic progresses in the coming years.

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  30. The idea behind being able to tailor your diet based on an analysis of your microbiome is very cool! Although I feel like the message from your doctor about eating healthy and exercising more won't change, it would be interesting to see what kind of results people have when they alter their diet to fit their community of bacteria. There's so much we don't know about interaction between a person's microbiome, diet and health. Therefore I wonder what kind of effect a microbiome-tailored diet will have? Will it be more beneficial than a typical healthy diet? Will it be worth the time, money and resources to even follow this diet above a typical healthy diet? I also feel that with new tests like this comes extreme cost. Cost would really restrict access to such a test and perhaps limit the people who probably would need the test most. Therefore I foresee only well-off, health conscious people investing in this test and the benefit of the test to them will probably only be slight since they are already invested in their health so much. So while I think the idea of this test is cool, I am skeptical about its overall benefit and question whether it will drastically change doctors' recommendations about healthy eating.

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  31. It seems difficult to prescribe certain foods in order to eat our way to a healthy lifestyle. According to the article, minimal changes don't produce drastic results. You'd have to vastly change your diet in order to see the results you are hoping for. This article uses fiber as an example of a change that can be made to your diet that affects your microbiome. The issue with this is that if an individual focuses solely on consuming more fiber, other nutrients may be lost in the process. Instead, I would suggest a more well-rounded approach to achieving a healthier lifestyle - eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, etc.

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  32. In this article, it seems as though analyzing which foods are most beneficial for our microbiome is in the beginning stages and there are some troubles with establishing direct links. However, one issue I thought of while reading this article was that each individual has a unique microbiome. Maybe one individual has higher levels of a certain bacteria compared to another. So while foods that are "better for your microbiome" may be somewhat generalizable, I wonder if this is only to a certain extent. For example, everyone reacts differently to certain foods, some have allergies or intolerance. This must be somewhat due to one's microbiome, since it composes such a large percentage of our body. Thus, it seems as though microbiome variation may pose as a limitation to finding that "perfect" or "optimal" diet that would need further evaluation.

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  33. The article discussing dietary changes to the diet and the impact it has on our microbiome is interesting. While I do believe the suggestions in the article could help improve overall health, the information doesn't seem very "ground breaking." Nutritionists have known for some time that fiber, garlic, probiotics and other vegetables are beneficial to individuals overall health. The article reiterates these health benefits, yet suggests that these are merely recommendations and that the research is still too premature to make any substantial proven claims. I think overall, increasing and promoting a healthy lifestyle through behavioral changes will prove to be the most beneficial to overall health and the health of our microbiome. Behavior modifications such as improving dietary choices, increasing exercise and decreasing the toxins we allow in our bodies are means of promoting health and also seem promising for improving our microbiomes.

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  34. Alexander de GrootApril 17, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    I find it very interesting how the microbiome in and on our bodies can affect health. I find it even more interesting how everyone's microbiome is different depending on the environmental factors with which people surround themselves. However, I think doctors are limited with regard to what they can tell their patients to do improve their microbiomes. As the NY Times article mentions, researchers still need to put together how the association between food and microbes and microbes and health are related. Thus, more research needs to be done before specific diet "prescriptions" can be given to people to effectively and reliably change a person's health in specific ways. For now, doctors should focus on educating their patients about healthy nutrition habits and how it can generally affect their overall health.

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  35. This article emphasizes how much we do not know about our digestive system. I have been seeing a GI specialist for two years now and with each new medication or natural remedy tried, I become increasingly aware that doctors do not know what they are doing when it comes to the digestive system. I can tell you firsthand that the current standard procedure for identifying/ curing digestive issues is not adequate. It usually consists of multiple standard tests (stool tests, endoscopies, biopsies, radioactive stomach dumping exams) and if the results do not indicate one of the handful of well-understood diseases of the digestive system (Celiac's disease, H. pylori etc.) then you are pretty much out of luck. The next step is trial and error through drugs, some with some pretty frightening side effects. The fact is, the digestive system is still a complex mystery. Since learning about the possibility in class, I am very interested in sequencing my microbiome, but this article suggests that the results are a bit inconclusive. The first step doctors/consumers can take to eat our way toward a better lifestyle is to fund research. We need to better identify the specific effects certain foods/ supplements have on the human microbiome, the function of each microorganism, and the signs and symptoms of an unbalanced microbiome. Then, we should work to understand more about the digestive system's nervous system and its effects on mood. The human microbiome provides an exciting opportunity for future research. Once we grasp a better understanding of the microbiome, doctors should advertise consumer sequencing for a more personalized prescription to microbiome health.

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  36. While reading this article it was apparent that doctors and researchers don't know a whole lot about the digestive system yet. In addition, what each person needs is going to be different. The one certain thing, it seemed, was that everyone needs a good amount of fiber in their diet in order to keep the "good" bacteria in our system. If not, then it will feed on our lining and mucous. That could be detrimental. Since there still needs to be further research done, giving suggestions for a healthy lifestyle through diet can be a little difficult. Doctors know in general what people need to be healthy but the amount depends on the person. I have learned that i need more vitamin C than, for example, my sister so i eat foods and drink juices that are higher in vitamin C to keep myself healthy. Dietary needs, i believe, always need to be personalized and when visiting a doctor that needs to be the focus. The individual.

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  37. I think that doctors should definitely advise their patients to eat healthier and start exercising more instead of instantly prescribing a certain food or vegetable to do all the work that health eating and exercise can do. The diet and exercise habits of Americans are very poor as compared to other areas of the world, so I think improving those areas should be targeted first before trying to prescribe particular foods that can potentially improve our microbiome. Also, the article didn't exactly specify which foods should be used in order to "eat our way" towards a healthier microbiome. With that in mind, I don't particularly think that it should be regarded as a significant measure towards living a healthier lifestyle, if not paired with overall healthy eating and exercise.

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  38. This is an interesting article about the field of our food and microbiome. From the article, it seems like the researchers do not know much about this and it has a vast amount of questions left answered. It seemed that most of the NPR articles are speculations and hypothesis, meaning that we need further testing and proof. But the potential of this discovery and understanding this microbiome could be extremely important and over all a positive effect on understanding more about our bodies. Eventually, doctors can prescribe or recommend foods that are healthy and beneficial to different individuals. Or better yet, we can look at our own microbiome and plan out the healthiest diet possible for ourselves. This can improve our overall lifestyle and our health. However, this will all still be dependent on the individual’s willpower and determination to follow the diet. It will still be a great guide nonetheless for us to reach our healthy life. One concern I have is that I do not want corporations to take advantage of this and make more profit. But I know like all businesses, if this ever becomes more developed many companies would jump in this market and try to make as much money as possible. There will be more microbiome friendly food out there and I believe it will just ruin the main point of all this. Only time will tell since this is still such an early stage of development and I cannot wait to follow this closely to understand more about the way we eat and how it affects our individual bodies differently.

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  39. Scientist are definitely on to something in respects to using bacteria to benefit a healthy life style. More data and research still needs to be done in order to clarify how the bacteria can directly benefit us and which foods in particular will have the greatest impact. I wasn't aware that vegetables give off actinobacteria which helps to produce Insulin in addition to other vegetables helping to keep the lining of the mucus layer in our gut. If we can keep educating to keep a high fiber diet, even if we don't know directly which vegetables correlate with the bacteria in our stomach, it is still the direction we want health to head in.
    I am always reading about these different fruits from far away countries and how people are suddenly dropping a lot of weight. Scientist are continually producing studies on different foods and how they are affecting our bodies and metabolisms. If they can use nurtigenomics to find fruits and vegetables that will keep us healthy we are heading in the right direction.

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  40. It is still unsure whether or not we came completely change our microbiome. The article gave a lot of interesting facts and gave some examples of foods that seem to be beneficial to us, however it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For instance, whole grains recently have become a very popular choice when trying to live a healthy lifestyle, however the article says that there is evidence that whole grains may not be all that great for us. I believe that people need to stick to the traditional "healthy diet" of eating fruits and vegetables and fiber and staying away from junk food. There is not enough proven research out there to tell us exactly what we should and should not eat and how much of every type of food we should eat to have a completely healthy microbiome.

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  41. In regards to the Nutrigenomics article we read in class, it is evident that this field is relatively new and that there is not enough information to make any conclusive statements about how nutrients may affect our bodies. However, I believe that doctors should encourage their patients to make healthier eating choices because this is a huge problem in America, considering the obesity epidemic. Like the article posted mention, certain foods look promising, such as fiber. Doctors should explain to the patients the importance of eating foods that look promising to health. However, they should do more than suggest; doctors should find out what foods patients prefer to eat and then suggest how they might be able to fit fiber and other foods into their diets according to their preferences.

    During my physicals, my doctor would hand me a huge packet about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. The packet would include what foods have which nutrients. I did not think this was an effective way of encouraging the patient to eat healthier because it is a huge packet to read through. I would suggest doctors communicate with their patients and be there to answer any questions they might have.

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  42. I think article, despite the unknowns that are still present, emphasizes how nutrition can play such a vital role in a person's health. It seems that what doctors and nutritionists have already been telling their patients about what to eat and what not to eat remains true. It seems that in general doctors should remain advising people to be mindful on what to eat. It is interesting that dietary fiber, one nutrient that many people never get enough, is one of the key factors to maintaining good gut health. It seems if anything doctors needs to be focusing on fiber since it is found in maybe fruits and vegetables.

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  43. The article seemed to emphasize the importance of a fiber-rich diet, not only for our overall health, but also for the health of our microbiome. If we don't feed the bacteria, particularly with fiber, then the bacteria will feed off of us by eating the mucus lining of our intestines. I found this fascinating because doctors and dietitians are always promoting a high fiber diet, but I've never heard this given as a reason. Personally, it seems like a more motivating factor for eating more fiber. This article particularly emphasized vegetables as a good source of fiber for our microbiomes. Evidently, whole grains, while a good source of fiber, might not be the best source of fiber for our microbiome. There is some evidence that it increases prevotella, which can cause inflammation in people with HIV. It may also be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. However, it seems that the research into this is not definitive yet.

    Another interesting fact was that well-fed bacteria will help to nourish our intestines as well. There is a symbiotic relationship between us. The article explained that garlic has been found to have antimicrobial properties, though the research does not explain why or how yet. Researchers do know that garlic promotes the good bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, while harming the bad bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract.

    Overall, it seems that a lot more research is needed in this field. However, based on this article, the research could be very advantageous for our health. It is definitely an interesting path to explore in health research.

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  44. McBride et al’s article (2010) finds that “genetic risk feedback has been associated consistently with improved screening adherence,” but behavioral outcomes remain “largely unexplored.” However, in theory, if individuals were aware that they were at high risk of developing an illness, they should alter their lifestyle behavioral to prevent the developing of the disease—like getting screened more frequently. The article also mentions that a third of the US are not health literate. Regarding the promotion of healthy eating behaviors, there should be larger nation-wide campaign to stress the importance of eating healthy that is easy to understand for the majority of the population.
    This campaign can be targeted to people with a family history or who are individually at high risk of developing a disease related to poor diet. Physicians can educate them about the importance of eating healthy, but also inform them about the external resources they can use to make the diet change possible (websites, what to eat, local stores they can go to, etc.). However, the information must be simple enough for the consumer to understand. The USDA recently created “Choosemyplate” and it clearly shows the visual representation of how a person should eat to be healthy. Before that, there was the food pyramid, which can be hard to interpret for many. The “plate” shows a clear-cut example of the portion sizes of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains a person should have, hence making it easier to understand to the general population. Future interventions should follow this example to simplify information and education consumers about the importance of healthy eating.

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  45. While I certainly believe that your diet plays a large role in your overall health as well as the health of your microbiome, I'm not entirely convinced that current testing methods would help in regards to your microbiome's health. For one thing, as we learned earlier in "The Ghost in Our Genes," our grandparents' lifestyles and DNA would have a tremendous impact upon the bacteria that reside in us, and thus it might be wiser to look at a larger picture that incorporates not only our diets but also the lifestyle choices our ancestors made as well, because those choices affected our own digestion systems.

    If doctors were to prescribe a certain diet to their patients, they would need to ensure that their parents' epigenetic factors also correspond with those diets. Additionally, prescribing diets invokes a kind of privilege on the doctor's part - as one of my classmates mentioned earlier, some patients live in a food dessert, and may not have adequate access to the nutrients they so desperately need. An alternate method - such as pop-up grocery trucks or community gardens - would be needed to make this idea feasible. In the US especially, sugar is hidden in all sorts of food (including whole wheat bread!), making a fully healthy diet harder than one would typically think. A doctor would have to know her patients' background before prescribing such a thing.

    Despite my misgivings on tailoring a patient's diet to the health of their microbiome (especially when articles like http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/11/04/240278593/getting-your-microbes-analyzed-raises-big-privacy-issues discuss the rampant privacy issues involved!), I wholeheartedly believe that doctors should endorse general healthy eating habits, and that doctors should work together with patients and patient advocacy groups to create a support system that would encourage those habits. While you can't fully change your genes, you can change your epigenetic factors so that you can pass down those healthier habits to your progeny.

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  46. I think that it would be amazing if doctors could and would prescribe healthy diets and diets that are tailored to that patients particular health problems; however, as a few others have said that seems a bit unpractical right now. Since we are still learning more about thinks lie our microbiome and nutrigenomics implementing it in clinical settings would be very difficult and hard for health care workers to have a clear understanding of how to use it.

    While nutrigemoics and the microbiome are still being studied, there is definitely a consensus among medical professionals that a generally healthy diet is beneficial to everyone. I think it would be great if doctors, nurses, and other health care workers spent more time discussing how diet can affect a persons health before prescribing medicine to treat something that diet could help. It seems silly to prescribe healthy food, but instead I think it would be awesome if doctors and nurses could prescribe discounts or vouchers to buy healthy food or even join a gym that would be covered by a person's health insurance. A lot of people are motivated to be healthier but the nearly universal highly priced healthy or organic or local food prevents a lot of people from being able to change their diet. I don't think there will ever be a time when groceries and pharmacies will be in one place but having health food covered by insurance and allowing doctors to prescribe a voucher for specific foods would be a great place to start getting health professionals more involved in their patients diets. As nutrigenomics and the microbiome are more understood hopefully this type of system would seem more reasonable and plausible for the near future to increase the affect health professionals have on their patients diets that could increase their overall health.

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  47. Something that I thought was incredibly interesting that was brought up in class was the idea that the human body can be considered an ecosystem to all the microorganisms that inhabit us. I think what is even more interesting is that in the future, we could understand our microbiome to the extent that we could utilize it to help humans retain a healthier lifestyle. In our bodies, microbes outnumber the number of human cells in our body so it doesn’t seem unlikely that knowing how to manipulate our microbiome could have outstanding effects on our health. Our dependence on the microorganisms in our body is evident even now. We rely on microorganisms to help us digest the food in our bodies, to help augment and protect our immune system. We even rely on microbes to activate certain types of medication such as rifampin (birth control). Our dependence on the natural flora of our bodies is quite evident and with the progress of research, eventually we could learn to manipulate the natural flora in our bodies to allow us to reap the maximum health benefits and further improve the symbiotic relationship we have with these bacteria that live in our bodies.

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  48. I thought it was very interesting how we talked in class about how the keyboards were identified based on the microorganisms left on them by their owners. However, there are many limitations to this because it was a small sample size. If the results of this study were taken as completely valid, this could be dangerous. Not enough is known about the bacteria, because there is no way to know whether two people could have the same type of microorganisms on their body. This could lead to misidentification if this was the only method used to identify a person. I would have liked to see more of the movie Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria because it is alarming that this type of thing can happen. It was scary to see the young girl become so sick so fast and there was no way for the doctors to help her. As we learn more about the microbiome, what effect the microorganisms have on our body, and the importance of balance between our genome and the microbiome, hopefully these cases can be minimized.

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  49. I think that the human microbiome project is amazing in that it identifies the millions of microorganisms that exist on our bodies and make us who we are. Using the microbiome as a tool for better health outcomes seems to be the natural next step to healthier living. We are already seeing this pop up in yogurt commercials-using probiotics to compete with other harmful biota in our gut.

    I think that when it comes to learning about the human body, just examining the human genome is not enough, because there are so many other microogranisms that exist in our bodies with different DNA that control our health status. The use of probiotics in particular seems to be the most effective mainstreamed way to use our microbiome and our diet to avoid illness. When it comes to eating our way to health, this seems to be one of the best ways to do it.

    Also, I think there is much research that needs to be done on the effects of other foods on our microbiota. If, like the article says, bacteria that are well fed will not try to eat us, then it seems important that we keep them well fed. But, the article seemed to be conflicted on the benefits of fermented foods. Either way, more research is definitely necessary in order to determine which foods are beneficial to our resident bacteria.

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  50. This article was very interesting, but really left me with more questions than answers. I think that microbiomes are obviously very important to our health, but I'm just not sure how drastic of an affect our diets would have on modifying or changing our own microbiomes to becoming healthier. To me, considering what I've read in other articles and learned in other classes, it seems like everything mentioned in this article may have health implications - not always positive - aside from creating healthier microbiomes. I firmly believe and stand by the fact that eating a healthy diet and exercising is the best way to live a healthy lifestyle, and that's what public health professionals should be focusing on. There doesn't seem to be enough information with microbiomes to give any concrete suggestions for diet changes. Until there is further research, how can we confidently recommend diet changes?

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  51. The human microbiome project is incredibly interesting and something that needs to be advanced in the future. The human body is riddled with microorganisms, and the slightest imbalance can have disastrous effects on health outcomes. With such a huge microorganism population in the body, it is important to understand how these organisms interact with the human body's cells, and consequently how those interactions affect health. As foods can alter the interactions of these microorganisms, it is important to also research how certain foods can positively or negatively affect the microorganisms in the human body.

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  52. I thought that this article was very interesting. I did not know a lot about microbiomes and microbes before learning about them in class, so reading about how certain foods rich in fiber contain bacteria that is actually good for us was intriguing. I have heard about foods such as yogurts containing pro-biotics which are good for the digestive tract, but not about the bacteria in fiber. However, I think that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this field. A healthy diet is something that has always been recommended, but this new research is bringing to light added benefits that healthy foods have on our microbes.

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    1. Certain foods that are rich in fiber and contain bacteria is something I had no idea about before this week, and I find it very interesting as well that the bacteria is actually good for us!

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  53. Until reading this article and discussing this subject in class, I didn't consider the affect our microbiome could have on our health. While further research is still being done on our microbiome, I think it is imperative that doctors continue to emphasize and communicate the importance of having a healthy diet to their patients. It is important that patients eat an enriched diet that help provide nourishment to the microbes that live in our body. For example, from the article I learned that if we eat too little fiber, it can have an impact on our digestive system by causing the bacteria to eat the lining of our large intestine. This is something I did not know before and I feel that this type of information is important to know so that we can design the right type of diet to allow us to maintain and live a healthy lifestyle.

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  54. Doctors can definitely aid patients in eating their way to a healthy lifestyle. The classic phrase "you are what you eat" comes to mind, and this NPR article serves to reaffirm that age old belief. We are not consciously aware of the activities of the microorganisms in our body, but we live in unity in the same flesh. The NPR article mentions that when we feed our body good sources of dietary fiber and prebiotics, we provide the necessary nutrition for the microorganisms to thrive, protect our organ linings, produce other nutrients as byproducts, and more. Likewise when we fail to supply these nutrients, the microorganisms do the exact opposite: they battle with our bodies in multiple ways such as eating away on our internal mucus linings, lowering our immunity, and so forth. Thus, the evidence strongly suggests that we cannot disregard these organisms, and the success of both us and them depends on proper nutrition.

    With that being said, the physician or nutritionist, who is in a greater place of power, should advise patients who may not be as knowledgeable about the benefits of adequate dietary fiber and prebiotic intake. They can recommend eating more garlic, fiber-rich vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus, fiber-rich vegetables such as apples, prebiotic-rich sources such as yogurt with active cultures, and more. If a patient has a tough time creating a meal plan, a nutritionist may be able to help coordinate that. Cutting out unnecessary junk foods and fats will help to create space in one's diet for such nutritional essentials. Ultimately it relies on the patient's adherence, but once this information is relayed, the patient will be in a much better position to eat his or her way to a healthier lifestyle.

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  55. To be honest, I did not know humans had a significant amount of microbiomes incorporated in their genome. It is scary to think that because we usually associate bacteria with illness and horrible effects. After listening to the NPR, all I thought about was why can't we essentially give patients micrbiomes that help increase metabolism to help reduce weight.

    I have always wonder why two different people can go on the same weight loss journey and have total different outcomes. We always hear that physical differences are attributed to our gene. People most often say "you can't look that way because it's not in your genes". After learning about microbiomes, I believe that physical differences can be attributed to more than the human genome or more associated with microbes since they are abundant in our body. With this knowledge, I think research should shift to fully understanding the biology of microbes. We should also look at alternative ways to implement microbiomes in treatment

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  56. The human microbiome project is fascinating. Not only do external factors affect the health of humans, but literal internal factors as well. The connection between food to health to microbiome and back to food is an interesting chain. We've known for years that these three things affect each other, but not it's just a matter of piecing the puzzle together to clearly understand the association and impact it has on each other and then on the human body. However, this project has only scratched the surface of this incredible idea. For now, the best bet for a healthy lifestyle is to continue to consume foods that are beneficial to the body (along with the right serving amounts) and keep going with exercise and other types of physical activities.

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  57. The first thing that comes to my mind when considering eating healthier to live a healthier lifestyle are the Persian home remedies that my mom and grandmothers prescribe me when it is the time of the year (flu season, winter, etc...) when they know we are more susceptible to getting sick. For example, my mom's favorite food to give us are sweet lemons, im not exactly sure what they are called in english because she always calls it by the Farsi word but whenever she has the chance to give us something to eat, its sweet lemons, and it usually stops any cold from progressing. I understand my mothers traditions may be old and outdated, but perhaps the first thing scientists and nutritionists can do to "prescribe ways to eat our way to a healthy lifestyle" is to look at the traditional home made remedies that ancient cultures have carried.

    The idea that the human body can be considered an ecosystem to all the microorganisms that inhabit us is a fascinating thought. As many of my classmates said, it would be so incredible if doctors could actually look at our microbiome to prescribe foods. As it says in the article, it will take time for scientists to figure out which diet would fit well with each person, especially because each person has a different lifestyle and dietary restrictions and access to foods especially in areas of low SES. A lot of factors need to be inserted to eating to a healthier lifestyle but i definitely think the first step is to understand healthy nutrition.

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  58. I think studying our microbiome will prove useful in disease interventions. Considering out bodies are home to more bacterial cells than our own cells, monitoring the types and numbers of each bacteria with give us insight into health and disease. Obviously, there limitations to this study and its application. Prescribing a diet based on a person's microbiome is an interesting approach to health, but in our past discussions of the life course perspective, it seems that instilling good habits at a young age will improve health and lower the risks of disease. Obviously being aware of microbiome can be useful when bacteria counts are abnormal, and are indicative of a certain disease.

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  59. As a student interested in public health and primary prevention, I think the idea of prescribing healthy foods and physical activity would be a step in the right direction for health care. I think it would dramatically reduce the cost of health care expenditures because the cost of fruits and vegetables is (for the most part) lower than for prescription drugs. I found the information about the microbiomes that make up our digestive track really interesting. It allowed me to see that, while eating healthier or different types of foods for a short period of time doesn't really effect the body's health in a dramatic way, maybe long term alterations could have more of a life changing effect. But as the article says the lack of research done in this particular area has yet to be done and much more information will hopefully surface about how we can alter are microbiome through more holistic measures as appose to hard medicines and drugs.

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  60. As we’ve learned, our bodies are full of bacteria that actually help us in many ways, such as digesting food. The further into this semester we go, I’ve continued to add to my belief that the body is a machine that needs to have many parts taken care of to work properly. If we neglect one part, we are hindering ourselves from becoming as physically fit as possible. Our diet is one of these equally important parts, and that includes the bacteria within our bodies.

    From the article, it sounds like there is much uncertainty about what exactly we should be eating to promote a healthy microbiome within our bodies. Fiber is perfect for our bodies and is a great food for many bacteria that live in our stomachs. It’s an essential part of our nutrition. Whole grains also help in the process of keeping our bacteria happy within our systems. Doctors could really make an impact in a patient’s life by prescribing a specific diet full of the foods that contain the many nutrients that help our bacteria. If a person is told specifically what to eat during a day, they are much more likely to follow through with the diet. This would ensure their body gets the specific nutrients it needs.

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  61. Personally, I do believe that we can eat our way to a healthier microbiome if we have the will to change our lifestyles. It is an advantage to be able to consume such healthy food but it is also up to us to maintain good health. We can't completely rely our our diets; there's only so much they can do.
    The NPR newsletter provides an insight to how certain foods, especially the probiotic ones can have a positive impact. Doctors can certainly take these food into account and "prescribe" a healthier diets for their patients, but I think the most effective way is for these diets to start from a younger age, combined with other healthy habits. From a life-course perspective approach, these early experiences can shape health across an entire lifetime and perhaps even for many more generations to come. Instead of "reshaping" our microbiome, maybe researchers should focus on how to shape a baby's microbiome starting from when his/her mother becomes pregnant.
    As much as I believe in the effects of eating probiotic foods, I think that overdoing it can yield unwanted results. Additionally, the biological makeup varies from person to person. So I don't think we should determine a set or general amount of nutrition that's best for the whole population.
    There are still many researches to be done until we can finalize a solution. However, we still have to take into account other factors while doing so. For example, exercising has always been recommended for people who want to live longer, disease-free lives. Therefore, if we can also establish a clearer connection between working out and improving our microbiome, perhaps the results can be amplified.

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  62. When it comes to prescribing ways to eat healthier, I believe doctors play a small role, but ultimately it is up to the patient. I believe registered dieticians, rather than doctors would be the most helpful in prescribing ways for patients/consumers to eat healthier. Dieticians are helpful in prescribing a food and nutrition plan for patients. Doctors have to take care of many other aspects of a patient’s health and do not have the time or means to focus solely on food and nutrition.
    From what I have learned in my other biology and nutrition classes, the digestive system is very complex. There are countless numbers of microorganisms that enter and live in the body. Different environments allow them to thrive while others are not as suitable. I am not surprised by the lack of certainty about food, microbes, and health as stated by Rob Knight in the article.

    The section about whole grains intrigues me. I have always thought that whole grains were the best food option and strive to buy them whenever I can. Until reading this article, I never knew that whole grains cause problems for people with HIV and have some type of association with rheumatoid arthritis. The relation of whole grains with these two health problems is interesting; however I am not convinced of the link. I would like to see some other research because I have never heard of this phenomenon before.

    The yogurt Activa immediately came to mind while reading this article. The commercials and package design persuade customers to believe that the product will contribute to better digestive health. I believe food companies, advertisements, and marketing contribute to much of people’s food choices, which can advantageous as well as harmful.

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  63. For hundreds of years people have survived without the knowledge of the composition of their microbiome, why now is it so important to try to have a healthier microbiome? Why is having a healthy microbiome important? The article discusses new research and possible foods that could improve your microbiome health, but never explains why it is important; this leaves me confused as I do not completely understand the benefits/disadvantages of knowing your microbiome in general.

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    1. I think the importance of knowing about microbiomes is simply to improve upon existing information and treatments. For example, there's a study right now: the Human Microbiome project that seeks to understand all types of microbiomes in people of different health and disease status'. The idea is that disease and microbiomes are associated, and that understanding microbiomes might be able to allow us to move slightly away from a pharmaceutical based form of medicine to one that's more alternative and holistic. Basically, microbiomes may be associated with diseases. If it is, then we can use microbiomes to address symptoms of diseases or assist in curing of them. At least, that's the hope.

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  64. One that that immediately came to mind although it is a little different is the new Hubway program in Boston. Doctors can now prescribe cheaper memberships to the bike share program for lower income patients. They can get a "prescription" for as low as $5. This will help encourage an active lifestyle at an affordable rate. It will also help reduce obesity.

    It would be interesting to see if doctors could "prescribe" healthy food to lower income patients. Since most lower income patients won't be able to afford healthy foods, they would be at a disadvantage for a healthy microbiome. It would be a great solution if doctors could give out gift cards to healthy grocery stores such as Trader Joes. It sounds like a great idea but I'm not sure how practical or realistic this idea really is.

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  65. Newsflash: people tend to live healthier with healthier diet. What? Of course, we all know high fiber intake is better for us. It's not really anything new to hear that bacteria and humans have a symbiotic relationship. We feed them and they keep us healthy. But from this article, we now learn the reasons behind the phenomenon. It is fascinating to note that bacteria feeds off of us when they run out of food.

    This article does focus mainly on the rich diet of fiber as a factor of a healthy lifestyle. However, we cannot just rely on eating healthy food, but also other factors such as physical activities and even genes (according to the articles we have been focusing). Sure, we may be able to live healthy and disease-free thanks to healthy diets, but healthy diets and lifestyles are not and cannot be the only factors that play a role in living a healthy life.

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  66. We all like to believe in the notion that doctors should consider prescribing certain foods for certain ailments just as they prescribe certain drugs for certain conditions, however, the truth in the matter is that doctors or health care professionals cannot do just that yet without a change in our national policy regarding subsidization. If insurance companies were required to subsidize certain “diets” for patients that doctors prescribed, as well as gym memberships, then I think this notion would be plausible and many more people in the U.S. would be able to afford a healthy lifestyle. This would then contribute to lower rates of obesity in this country and much lower rates of disease. But, this cannot be done without additional resources that would require further micromanagement and scrutiny as to where our resources are currently allocated at this time.

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  67. Our bodies have many different mechanisms that all work in unison with one another and when we properly nourish our bodies everything will work properly. You cannot consume too much of one nutrient and leave out others or have too little of other nutrients, it should all be balanced I believe. This article gets into how we should eat to promote a healthier microbiome within our bodies and fiber is a very important nutrient we should be consuming. Ways that doctors can help is to focus on newborn's diets and make sure once they are born the parent's know exactly what to do to feed and care for them properly. Eating well will help our microbiome but we should also add things like exercise and stress free lifestyles to enhance the effect of nutrient dense eating even more.

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