My Microbiome and Me

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1248-1250
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6086.1248

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In 2004, microbiologists showed a link between obesity and gut microbiota in mice. To find out whether that link extended to humans, microbiologist Zhao Liping adopted a regimen involving Chinese yam and bitter melon—fermented prebiotic foods that are believed to change the growth of bacteria in the digestive system—and monitored not just his weight loss but also the microbes in his gut. When he combined these prebiotics with a diet based on whole grains, he lost 20 kilograms in 2 years. His blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol level came down. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii—a bacterium with anti-inflammatory properties—flourished, increasing from an undetectable percentage to 14.5% of his total gut bacteria. The changes persuaded him to focus on the microbiome's role in his transformation. He started with mice but has since expanded his research to humans.