Harvard symposium highlights health impact of gut microbiota and probiotics throughout lifespan

Danone Nutricia Research, one of the key sponsors of the September 15th and 16th Harvard Medical School Division of Nutrition symposium on gut microbiota, probiotics and their impact throughout the lifespan, announces its continued support of research in the emerging field of the microbiome and its interactions with body functions.

This year marks the second edition of this unique symposium.

These meetings allow a broad range of experts, working on the microbiome in multiple different ways to meet with for two full days and to exchange findings and ideas, so that knowledge of this very complex and promising field for human health can progress even more rapidly.

According to Dr Christine M’Rini, Scientific Director of the Dairy Division of Danone Nutricia Research, “Given that the foods we eat come into contact with the microorganisms of our gut, this exploding area of science will certainly offer new insights into the types of diet, based on their interaction with our microbiome, that may help to program, protect or pamper the Health of our Gut. Today, we know this is crucial to our global health, our ability to age well and remain as free of diseases as possible”. For Danone whose mission is “to provide health through food to as many people as possible”, it is only natural to support these types of independent and high level initiatives. In addition, Dr M’Rini adds:

One can truly feel that this symposium is a place where renowned experts are expanding the barriers of science, challenging recent hypotheses and uncovering new truths relative to the billions of microorganisms that define the microbiota and we at Danone our proud to be part of these activities that will shape our future.

In line with the ambition of the organizers of this event, the topics covered new research from pregnancy to old age. The specific aspects of metabolic and brain function that were addressed concerned, for the most, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Parkinson’s Disease, depression, stress, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. While previous studies tended to show that the mode of delivery of newborn influenced their immune system and/or risk for developing disorders experienced by the mother, new data confirms that the intrauterine environment is not sterile. Thus, regardless of mode of delivery, we now know that the fetus is exposed to microorganisms located in both the placenta and the amniotic fluid and that many of these microorganisms are related to diet. The fact that research is currently being carried out to understand how maternal diets can influence the infant microbiome and potentially reduce certain microbiome related diseases has hence become even more obvious. As for adults, given that the microbiome has already been clearly linked to several metabolic and brain-related diseases, efforts are being made towards understanding to what extent diet can play a role, in what type of individuals and to prevent what types of disorders.

One of the major reasons, why this science is able to make progress, is also related to the development of specific sequencing tools and artificial gut models that did not exist 10 years ago. Because there are many different types of bacteria that make up the microbiome, it is important to be able to distinguish them as precisely as possible, before making any general conclusions, as it is key to know them for who they are, but also for what their functions are independently and collectively.

Before drawing any health related conclusions, researchers still need to clarify matters regarding the other factors, that besides food can also impact the microbiome, such as the environment or a person’s genes. Elsewhere, it is important to note that approval processes for carrying out studies on microorganisms in humans can take time to obtain. However, luckily for our future, these additional aspects related to research on the microbiome have neither prevented overall activities from booming in this particular field, nor the excitement around the numerous hopes that are being raised each day around the role that food can play to preserve our general health, from remaining high.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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