Personalized nutrition and the microbiome- using big data

Nov 02, 2020 11:31am

Personalized nutrition & the microbiome – Why is the gut such a hot topic in science

If I look back at my diary the last month or so, I have participated or led 6 panel discussions focusing on the microbiome and personalized nutrition. As much as I love talking everything gut from my past roles, it does seem that this year is particularly skewed towards gut rather thank overall health. Every single panel discussion involves a lot of planning, preparation and research to make sure that I am up to date on the latest advances in personalized nutrition, research as technologies and controversial issues.

However, at the end of all the events, I find myself fully updated, bursting with ideas and lots of bits of notes that I don’t tend to do anything with. So this year instead I decided to summarize the highlights of the panel discussions and statements the participants made into short posts for all those who could not make to the events live, who still have to find the tab to open the tab that holds the recording and just can’t find the email with the recording link as it’s buried, I’ve got you.

The first question I will address today is:

Where is the microbiome science right now?

Well it’s early, you knew I’d say that.. that is not very surprising. As much as we have advanced in our understanding of the role of the microbiome in our overall health, what we can do about it, remains very unsexy. We are at this critical time, where consumer awareness is so high that it is such a great time to inform and  educate, however consumers are pretty unimpressed when they get answers such as: improve your lifestyle, reduce your stress, increase your fiber intake and move more. I have seen the disappointment all too many times, but we have to be transparent and honest about where the science is at and make sure we communicate in parallel.

We know that the microbiome is highly adaptable and changes in diet or lifestyle can be detected within 3-4 days. We also know that the microbiome is influenced by many factors such as stress, sleep, diet, physical activity, genetics and medication (antibiotics) and that the microbiome although formed by the age of 3 can be influenced in the long terms by environmental factors such as diet. We are also at a point where we know that dietary patters (Mediterranean diet), dietary composition (high in fiber and low in meat), and diet diversity (differen types of fibers) play key roles in the microbiome composition and shows potential in understanding he impact on health. In addition, recent research has demonstrated how the gut microbiome composition can determine our post-prandial glucose levels (Berry et al 2020) Therefore, we should not lose sight of the fact that despite there has been a huge increase in the intake of nutritional supplements during this COVID pandemic, one can never out-supplement a poor diet or lifestyle.


A peek into big data microbiome trends

One of the new services we offer is a big data analytics approach into online trends, social media chatter and topics. This approach is enabled by AI and machine learning and the opportunities to answer specific questions are huge. So we looked online in the scientific literature with a focus on the microbiome.

Which are the keywords most often cited in the scientific literature this year?

Once we extracted a file of the latest 6000 papers published on the topic this year, we wanted to identify the keywords that popped up the most. These can be helpful in detecting the topics or phrases that are most published. Below we created a word cloud which clearly shows that words such as “microbial” “gut” “Microbiome” “disease” are some of the words that popped up the most.

 Which is the most cited paper this year?

It is also possible to identify the papers with the most citations which can provide an indication of how popular, controversial or good a publication is.

The intestinal microbiota fuelling metabolic inflammation



Which is the one paper you should read today?

With diversity and representation in the literature and in industry being of key importance to our Values at Qina, we love the way that the recent research published earlier this year by experts in the field is summarized with an international lens. Certainly a must read in the area of personalized nutrition & the microbiome!


Diet and the Human Gut Microbiome: An International Review:


Where are the gaps in the scientific literature today?

There is a big gap in our understanding into how long it takes to have lasting changes to our microbiome.

We also do not have a very good understanding of how baseline microbiome characteristics can predict our response to personalized dietary interventions (Whelan et al 2019)

We also lack the full understanding of what the right dosage or combination of specific strains are to make recommendations to have an impact on health


Which is the hottest social media platform for microbiome chatter based on >20 000 posts?

The bigger the size of the letters, the more it is represented in the number of posts. In this case, Instagram is the clear winner!



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