Would modifying gut microbiota decrease your risk of chronic disease? Here’s what scientists think

The intestinal microbiota comprises bacteria and viruses that reside in the gut. They play a significant role in digestion and protect against specific pathogens. However, several factors such as dietary changes, alcohol consumption, antibiotics, and inflammatory bowel disease can disturb the gut microbiota resulting in imbalances, also known as dysbiosis, which is associated with several chronic diseases [1].

In animal models, studies have suggested that gut dysbiosis can cause metabolic disturbances and weight gain [2]. But can it treat or prevent chronic diseases by modifying the gut microbiota?

Scientists must establish a causal relationship between gut microbiota characteristics and chronic diseases to be a therapeutic target. Although many observational studies have been done, causality has yet to be established.

Therefore, researchers have used a genetic approach called “Mendelian randomization” to determine if there’s a direct and causal relationship between gut microbiota and certain health markers, diseases, and longevity [3].

The study’s hypothesis was to confirm the association between gut dysbiosis and aging-related chronic diseases [4]. However, the results do not suggest a significant impact of gut dysbiosis on metabolic factors and chronic diseases.

Although seven associations between certain microbial parameters and chronic diseases associated with aging are likely causal, their effect is minimal and could be due to chance.

The findings imply that gut dysbiosis may not significantly impact the development of chronic conditions. While maintaining a healthy gut plays a vital role in preventing harmful bacteria from thriving in the gut and processing nutrients that the body may otherwise reject, the current approved gut microbiota modulation therapies only work towards preventing specific bacterial infections.

Hence, it is crucial to be careful while using diagnostic tests based on gut microbiota to identify health issues, and any interventions must rely on properly validated evidence.

[1] https://www.saccharomycesboulardii.com/gastrointestinal-health/gut-imbalance/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8477631/
[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-021-00968-y
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7590960/

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