The Spanish Microbiome Project: a groudbreaking work coordinated by DARWIN

The results of the Spanish Microbiome Project, carried out with the Instituto Central Leche de la Nutrición Personalizada and the Cátedra Extraordinaria Central Lechera Asturiana-UCM have just been published. This is the first work that studies the composition of the “normal” intestinal microbiome (of healthy individuals) in a Mediterranean country like Spain, which has one of the life spans in the world. (The direct link to the article is here)

The intestinal microbiome plays a very important role in human. In fact, in recent years the role that different microorganisms carry out in several pathologies such as diabetes, obesity or depression has been demonstrated. The gut microbiome depends on many factors: gender, age, geographic origin, or diet. This demonstrates that there is no universal microbiome, the microbial composition of the intestine varies according to the population studied. In fact, to date, there were only 4 healthy gut microbiome studies at the country level (UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium).

Some of the results we obtained are set out below: The microbiome of Spaniards varies according to sex and age.  For example,  a loss of bifidobacteria (beneficial bacteria) with age has been also demonstrated. The total diversity of bacteria has also been found to increase with age. Regarding diet, the consumption of fruits, vegetables and nuts is related to a decrease in the abundance of species related to health problems (e.g. Flavonifractor), which in turn increases with the consumption of sugary drinks. We also found that men tended to consume more foods that could be considered less healthy (e.g. beer, distilled spirits, or sugary drinks). On the other hand, young people tend to practise eating habits that we might consider less healthy (e.g. lower consumption of citrus fruits or salads and higher consumption of sugary drinks or french fries).

All of these changes in eating habits have a direct effect on the gut microbiome. In other words, through changes in the microbiome we can ”see ” how there are individuals who tend to move away from the healthy habits of the Mediterranean diet. Take a look at the interview of Adriel LaTorre-Pérez, project coordinator and Director of the DARWIN Genomics Department, in El País newspaper here (in Spanish).

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