And he said that other research suggests that microbes may play a role in obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and immune system ailments.
The hyper-hygienic, highly caloric and processed foods most people in industrialized nations now eat amount to an experiment that is testing how rapidly the microbiota in the intestine can adapt, Sonnenburg said.
"We are conducting a huge experiment with an unknown outcome," he said. "Cleaning up the food we eat has had a very beneficial result in reducing food-borne disease. That can't be minimized. But there may be a cost associated with it."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on human microbiota.
SOURCES: Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D., assistant professor, microbiology and immunology, School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; Mirjam Czjzek, Ph.D., group leader, department of marine plants and biomolecules, National Center for Scientific Research, Roscoff, France; April 2010, Nature
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