More than 100 trillion microbes live in and on the human body, predominantly in the digestive tract, comprising our microbiome. Scientists are now starting to appreciate how fundamentally this microbiome affects our physical and mental health, creating new opportunities in food and medicine, according to Lux Research.
“Researchers now know that the microbial community associated with the human body plays an incredibly complex role in human health and disease,” said Camilla Stice, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the “Eating for 100 Trillion: Symbiotic Metabolism and the Microbiome Revolution” report. “Symbiotic metabolism between humans and their microbiome influence an extensive range of human physiology including nutrition metabolism, immune function and even brain development. This change creates vast opportunities for the development of new 'designer' foods to personalize health and nutrition by cultivating each individuals' microbiome.”
Lux Research analysts evaluated the growth of microbiome research, and its widening range of potential applications and impact on the food industry. Among their findings:
- Research activity is exploding. Microbiome publications have ballooned from 78 in 2000 to over 2,000 in 2013, and the International Human Microbiome Consortium’s funding has risen to $250 million and spans 10 countries. Venture capital-funded companies have emerged with applications such as probiotics, metabolic diagnostics, and personalized nutrition.
- Fundamental shift in thinking. Microbiome research links microbial dysbiosis to a myriad of disease states. Evidence now suggests that colorectal cancer, for example, may stem from a shift in microbial populations in the colon. These types of discoveries are revolutionizing thinking about bacterial populations in relation to nutrition, weight loss, immune function and disease states.
- Wide range of potential applications. Besides therapeutics and diagnostics, the microbiome has tremendous potential in applications such as animal diets and skin care. Cosmetics giant L’Oreal is targeting certain microbial strains through skin creams and lotions to protect the skin and remedy skin problems such as greasy, spotty and rough complexions.
The report, titled “Eating for 100 Trillion: Symbiotic Metabolism and the Microbiome Revolution,” is part of the Lux Research Food and Nutrition Intelligence service.