OCT 10, 2021 10:00 AM PDT

Food and the Microbiome: Using Bioinformation Tools To Personalize Diet and Nutrition Plans

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

According to a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers have developed a predictive bioinformatic system, called AGREDA, which attempts to account for the myriad ways the gut microbiome and dietary compounds interact. Researchers note that AGREDA may help in the development of nutrition and diet plans that are specific and personalized to an individual. 

But why the microbiome? The microbiome refers to the trillions of healthy bacterial cells living in our guts that affect digestion, metabolism, and overall health. However, everyone’s microbiome is unique, as research has often pointed out. Because of this, people respond to certain foods in different ways--just because two people are on the same diet or eating the same foods, for example, does not mean that they will respond to what they eat in the same way. Researchers have been analyzing the connection between the microbiome and diet for some time now, a concept called “personalized nutrition.” 

The findings published in Nature Communications suggest that AGREDA may offer a powerful tool for supporting personalized nutrition. AGREDA is a “genomic-scale metabolic” computational model that accounts for a wide range of metabolic interactions between gut microbiota and dietary compounds. Essentially, the model replicates the structure and inner workings of different microorganisms in the body to make predictions about how certain dietary supplements interact in the gut. 

According to the study’s lead author, Francisco J. Planes, current approaches to personalizing nutrition through similar tools are “incomplete and not optimal because… [they do] not take into account the metabolic contribution of the intestinal microbiota.” AGREDA expands on existing tools, like AGORA or CARVEME, by including information about more dietary compounds and how they are metabolized by the gut, creating a more comprehensive picture of the gut microbiome’s role in nutrition. 

Using stool samples from children to test the connection between certain dietary compounds and the gut, researchers were able to confirm that AGREDA was an effective tool for more clearly predicting the connection between certain diets and foods, the gut, and overall health outcomes. While researchers note that more work can be done to improve the coverage of AGREDA, their work provides researchers and clinicians ways to understand the different ways foods and the gut interact, which could lead to more personalized diet plans for people in the future. 

Sources: Medical Xpress; Nature CommunicationsGenome Biology 

About the Author
  • Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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