Right on time, the competing science is showing up where your gut microbes are concerned.
This article from Mother Jones online starts with this line:
We’re told that tweaks to the microbiome can cure everything from allergies to Ebola. Not exactly, say experts.
I would have to agree that a claim that ‘tweaks’ to the micro biome can cure Ebola would be an extreme claim. I had not heard that, so it would seem to be a bit of a straw man argument. I had heard that it might be the fix for food allergies, though, so I had to read on to see what ‘experts’ have to say about that. If what the ‘experts’ say is that they are not convinced that “tweaks to the microbiome can cure everything” I would agree without any reservation.
In the article we read that all of the big food players are looking at what they can add to their products so that someday they can put a giant font health claim of ‘contains vital probiotic’ on every package.
The hype has kicked off a gold rush. Big food companies—including Nestle, PepsiCo, Monsanto, and General Mills—have funded gut bacteria studies, and some have even opened centers to develop foods that interact with the microbiome, such as probiotics. According to Transparency Market Research the global probiotics market is expected to reach an astonishing $45 billion by 2018.
Apparently getting us to bite on foods is a lot like fishing. If they don’t take the red and white striped bait, switch to the black and green one. We might be fooled into continuing to eat processed foods if they can make us think that doing so will allow us to keep eating just like we always have. We will be fooled if they just add one more thing to the recipe. Vitamins, minerals, low fat, no gluten, no calorie, and now–“CONTAINS PROBIOTICS” will keep us purchasing the mystery-ingredient processed foods.
The gold rush will include medicines you can take, that will enhance your digestive system’s ability to handle the continuous stream of poisons and ‘enhancements’ contained in your three-times-a-day exposure to the Western Diet of artificial foods. Just take this one pill and you can drink all the Mexican Coke you can handle. Not a care in the world, if you just drink this probiotic Monster Energy Drink!
At a 2012 Institute of Medicine forum called The Human Microbiome, Diet, and Health, Susan Crockett, former vice president for health and nutrition at General Mills, spoke about the “amazing things” the food industry could do to help people maintain a healthy microbiome, in the same way cereals helped Americans increase their fiber consumption. Baby formula, other industry reps suggested, could be enhanced to more closely match the bacterial profile of breast milk and weight-loss products could harness the microbiome to speed up metabolism.
Amazing, indeed, in fact, practically hypnotic! You will never have to eat a real food again, if you get your dietary fiber in your coco puffs, and your probiotics in your ‘germ enhanced’ skim milk. Sugar will be a problem of the past in this brave new world!
Actual non-money-based science is on the scene, though. The caution mentioned in the top of the piece is actually a caution against thinking there will be a pill or supplement to processed foods that can deliver on any claim. The actual science is coming to realize that none of the ‘germs’ works in isolation, but that the entire organism of your micro biome acts only in concert with the other inhabitants of your gut, indeed even with your gut itself as they cooperate to strengthen one another.
The goal of the first phase of the HMP was to identify the microbial makeup of a “healthy” microbiome. And, in a study published earlier this year, researchers made an important discovery—that there is no such thing. Even among people who were examined and found to be perfectly healthy, each person’s microbiome was unique.
“We were going about it all wrong,” Proctor explains. “It is not the makeup—these communities come together and they actually become bigger than the sum of their parts…It almost doesn’t matter who is present, it just matters what they are doing.”
What Proctor is saying here is that you cannot change the community by bussing in a certain type of resident. They are going to find, I predict, that the only really effective way to maintain a healthy gut is to eat real foods. Eating chemicals produces a gut that lives best on chemicals. A gut that lives best on chemicals is going to be a gut that produces hypertension, diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease and early death from ten thousand lousy dinners. Eat quick, eat convenient, die young.
Eisen says that one of the most common errors in studies is confusion between correlation and causation. “The microbiome has 400 million different variables that you can measure about it,” Eisen explains. “The different sites, the different species, the relative abundance of those species, the variation—if you have that many variables, I can guarantee statistically that some of them will be perfectly correlated with Chron’s disease and have nothing to do with it.”
Four Hundred Million Variables that you can measure. Sounds complicated. Could take science a very long time to figure out how it all actually works together. In the meantime, you can eat real food that you prepare yourself, that has no artificial ingredients in it and just see for yourself if it changes the way that you feel. Do your own experiment for a month. I predict (unscientifically) that the results will be so incredibly positive that you will want to blog about it every day for the rest of your life, like I am! That is science you can believe in.
I am not on a diet. I no longer live like I used to and I am never going back to eating that way. Big food has lost this fish.