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Friday, June 02, 2006

New Genome Research Goes for the Gut

It’s a jungle out there—or rather, in there, according to the scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). Their study, published today in Science, is the first to define the collective genome of the human gut (our colon), which comprises 100 trillion microbes.

That staggering figure makes your gut a ‘microbiome’—essentially, a complete ecosystem that codes for the important enzymes you need to digest most of what you eat, including vitamins, sugars, and fiber (Trafon blog favorites!).

With so many parts working at once, these busy little microbes form a direct link to health and disease. The presence—or more notably, the absence—of beneficial microbes can cause metabolic shifts, and trigger diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, even cancer.

Here’s where I found particular vindication in the study: The researchers eventually plan to study the microbial difference between healthy people and those with GI conditions, including a comparison of their diets.

How would your colon compare in such a study? If you’re eating a nutrient-rich, fiber-packed diet, getting plenty of exercise, reducing dependence on OTC medications, and taking the appropriate supplements, you’d probably do well.

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