The American Gut project is an opportunity for the "citizen scientists" working with team of leading researchers and labs throughout the United States to help shape a new way of understanding how diet and lifestyle may contribute to human health through each person's suite of trillions of tiny microbes, say the researchers. A key aspect of the project is to understand how diet and lifestyle, whether by choice -- like athletes or vegetarians -- or by necessity, including those suffering from particular autoimmune diseases or who have food allergies, affect peoples' microbial makeup, said Knight.
"This will be the first project of its kind that might be able to address this question at such a large scale," said Jeff Leach, founder of the Human Food Project and co-founder of American Gut. The gut microbiome has been linked to many diseases, including obesity, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease -- all of which are much more common in Western populations, he said.
"We should start thinking about diets not only from the perspective of what we should eat, but what we should be feeding our entire gut microbial systems," said Leach. A key aspect of the project is to integrate studies of Americans of all shapes and sizes with studies of people living more traditional lifestyles in Africa, South America and elsewhere, he said.
The steep decline in the cost of DNA sequencing and recent advances in computational techniques allow for the analysis of microbial genomes orders of magnit
|Contact: Rob Knight|
University of Colorado at Boulder