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Exploring the Microbiome

Nutrition and the Gut Microbiome

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André Marette

Dr. André Marette

Professor at Laval University

Dr. André Marette is a professor at Laval University and an expert in nutrition and the microbiome. He is currently leading a research group that is funded by a CIHR CMI2 team project grant. The goal of the group is to understand the role of the microbiome in driving type 2 diabetes.

What is your gut microbiota and how does it develop?

The gut microbiota is all of the microorganisms that are growing in our gut. These are mainly bacteria, but can also be viruses, fungi and other microbes. As soon as we are born, we get the microbiome of our mothers. It can be influenced by several environmental factors, but also genetics. When you reach the adult stage, you have a fully developed microbiome, and the main regulator of the microbiome will become nutrition.

How does nutrition play a role in influencing the gut microbiome?

Nutrition is one of the most important regulators of the gut microbiome. The food we eat will influence the gut microbes and the type of microbiome we have in the gut will influence how we will metabolize and deal with the food we eat. There are really important interactions between nutritional factors and gut microbiota. In summary, well-balanced and diversified diets and overall good nutrition will help maintain a healthier gut.

Do you have any beneficial food recommendations to incorporate into our diet that can aid in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome?

When we say we are what we eat, it’s probably true. First and foremost a balanced diet is key. The gut microbiome prefers balance and food diversity. That said, if you are consuming a specific diet such as veganism it is important to increase specific supplements to maintain proper intakes of vitamins and minerals you take to compensate for the lack of certain food groups. Secondly, a fibre-rich diet is important as fibres help to maintain key beneficial microbes in your gut. Thirdly, proteins, those coming from vegetables, grains, fish, and dairy as they seem to confer more benefits on the gut microbiota as compared to meat proteins. And lastly, you should avoid transformed foods as those that contain many additives that can have a negative impact on our gut microbiota.

Is there potential for the gut microbiota to alleviate the metabolic syndrome?

Fortunately for us, the gut microbiota can be harnessed to improve our overall health. Research has shown that the gut is the messenger to our other organs responsible for controlling metabolic, cardiovascular, immune and mental health. Research linking specific aspects of the gut microbiome to metabolic syndrome is ongoing.

Do you have any advice for someone at risk for a metabolic syndrome condition?

From the perspective of the gut microbiome, a balanced diet rich in fibres, fruits, and vegetables will do the trick to help prevent metabolic syndrome. Prebiotics and probiotics can also help improve the gut microbiota and favours immune and metabolic health. Physical exercise is known to reduce the development of metabolic syndrome and studies show that regular exercise will actually help favourably reshape the gut microbiota. Be careful with alcohol, trans fat, saturated fat, red meat proteins, and food additives. The healthier you eat, the healthier your microbiome will be and this will help to prevent you from developing these diseases.

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