The impact of diet on the microbiome, health and the brain – A short introduction into how microbiology and nutrition is going to change human healthcare and animal husbandry


HNM engineering , Switzerland


The microbiome of any living organism catalyzes biochemical reactions influencing the bioavailability and metabolism of bioactive molecules like nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, feed and/or food additives. Consumption of food and these (bioactive) components changes the microbiome in that the growth of certain microbial species will be (dis) favored. As a consequence the biochemical processes in the gastro-intestinal tract change and metabolites that are produced pass through the intestinal barrier. The gastro-intestinal microbiome interacts with the immune system and it also produces a substantial amount of neurotransmitters, fatty acids and vitamins that are used by the host. These changes have its effect on health, wellness, growth, cognition and the brain in humans and animals. The new regulation on Novel Foods brings significant improvements to the authorization procedure of novel foods. These improvements facilitate a faster market access for products and ingredients to prevent or treat individual medical conditions by modulating the human microbiome.

The microbiome is a collective name for the microorganisms that reside in eco-systems and microbial assemblages in the gastro-intestinal tract, oral cavity, respiratory tract, female reproductive tract, nasopharynx, and the skin. It is most dominant in the gastro-intestinal tract where it consists of trillions of species that outnumber by far the number of body cells in humans. The microbiome is regulated by complex chemical interactions between the microbes, their host and its environment. It is important to take the microbiome into account in case of interventions to prevent or overcome a medical condition or infection. E.g. in case of therapeutic treatment against cancer development, the outcome of the individual response can be stratified into responders and non-responders on the basis of their intestinal microbiome (1).

The nature of the diet shapes the composition of the biochemical capabilities of the microbiome. An example is the consumption of seaweed Nori (Porphyra spp.), a popular component in the diet of the Japanese population. In the human gut Bacteroidetes may express the enzymes porphyranases and some specific galactosidases ...