Microbiome Trials

August 2022

Several clients have asked about the growing area of microbiome research and how they can be involved. With experience conducting microbiome trials, our team has compiled some information and recommendations:

1. Why microbiome?

“Gut health is an important factor in overall health and wellbeing,” says Dr. Thomas Wolever, Principal Scientist and Medical Director at INQUIS. “The growing research in this area solidifies the importance of gut health and establishes connections to crucial health markers. This area of science has been well-communicated to consumers, and they have responded with an active interest in promoting their gut health as part of diet and lifestyle changes to improve their overall health.”

2. What does a microbiome trial look like?

A typical microbiome trial would include:

  • Daily consumption of a food, beverage, natural health product, or supplement
  • Intervention period of 4+ weeks
  • 50-80 participants
  • Primary outcome: changes in gut microbiome
  • Secondary outcomes: GI symptoms, quality of life and general wellness, stool frequency.

This trial design would help demonstrate the effect of the product on the microbiome and gut health.

3. What is the microbiome?

The human colon contains hundreds of different types of microorganisms and there are about 10 times more microbial cells in our colon than we have cells in our body. These microbes obtain their energy from the fermentation of the undigested portion of food that we eat (e.g. dietary fiber, some fat and protein, and other chemicals in our foods) with the production of short chain fatty acids and other compounds. The microbes can modify the bioactives in foods which reach the colon (e.g. polyphenols, anthocyanins) and modify secretions from the small intestine (e.g. bile).

4. What is the relationship between microbiome and health?

What we consume in our diet affects the types and number of microbes in the colon and the nature of the products of their metabolism. The products of microbial metabolism can influence health in many ways:

  • They can influence the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the colon
  • They are absorbed from the colon and influence hormone and cytokine secretion from cells in the colonic wall (which in turn reach the blood stream and influence systemic metabolism)
  • Some may reach the liver and peripheral tissues to directly affect glucose and lipid metabolism and immune function.

As a new area of research, connections between the microbiome and health indicators are constantly being made as research expands. This includes glucose metabolism, immunity, heart health, body weight control, mood, sleep, and many long-term health markers.