Nov 11, 2010
I just heard a very interesting talk from Dr. Liping Zhao, who is Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Microbial Ecology and Ecogenomics, and Associate Dean of School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He is also associated with the new Shanghai Center for System Biomedicine. He described a consistent effect of diet (high fat vs. normal or normal vs. low fat) and caloric restriction on the composition of mouse gut microflora. I was impressed that even within a treatment, the composition of gut microflora was an indicator of lifespan. This correlation is interpreted by him in terms of a cumulative effect of anergy on health. His working hypothesis is that excess calories feed gut bacteria that cause inflammation, leading to a variety of health problems. A freely available paper from his group was published in PNAS in 2008 ("Symbiotic gut microbes modulate human metabolic phenotypes"). I expect that the results that he presented today will be published somewhere soon, and we're certain to see a lot more about the gut microbiome and health in the years to come.