Despite potentially playing a key role in the lives of patients, little is known about the true impact of gut microbiota on metabolic health. Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, discusses the reality of our understanding in a recent interview.
Not often is there a subject in medicine that is regarded a new frontier, yet that is just how many physicians describe our constantly-evolving understanding of gut microbiota and the role it plays in patient health.
Research into the manipulation and effects of gut microbiota are still in their infancy compared to other fields, but that has in no way deterred large amounts of physicians and researchers searching for more information. Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is one of those physicians.
While the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sponsors and provides grants for studies looking to impact of diets, Kahleova herself has taken part in studies and trials examining impact of dietary choices on gut microbiota.
MD Magazine® sat down with Kahleova to discuss just how much is known about gut microbiota and the impact it can play on your cardiometabolic health.
MD Mag: How great or shallow is our understanding of the impact of gut microbiota?
Kahleova: The impact of gut microbiota on metabolic health. That's an excellent question and if we can figure it out and it would probably win a Nobel Prize. Right now, we're putting all the pieces together. When we look at one specific bacteria, for example, most of the time you can find conflicting studies. You know, 1 study shows a plant-based diet can increase your bacteroides fragilis and another couple studies show it will decrease this specific type of bacteria. It's about the balance and it's about the portfolio — it's about the diversity of the gut microbiome.
So, it's very difficult to generalize how much we actually know, but the research is going on and with many studies going on we are putting the pieces together and we know that the gut microbiome plays a key role. However, we're not far enough yet to be able to say, "All you need to eat is broccoli according to your gut microbiome," — we're just not that far. An individualized dietary plan is an ideal for the future and we're on the way and it's exciting to be a part of the research and to contribute our piece to the big picture.