While the gut microbiome has a great deal to reveal about human health, developing precise nutritional recommendations based solely on microbiome testing may not yet be appropriate, according to a new research review. Led and supported by InsideTracker, a personalised nutrition provider, the paper delves analyses current research to assess whether gut microbiome testing could serve as a reliable input in creating custom nutritional interventions. InsideTracker uses blood biometrics, DNA testing and physiomarkers to create precision nutrition guidance.
Published in Current Developments in Nutrition (2021;5(9):nzab107), the paper delves into the confounding factors that impact the significant variability of the microbiome between individuals. The team calls out three particular areas of concern: variability of testing, including by different labs and even collected from the same individual at different times of day; agreement on what makes an ‘optimal’ microbiome balance; and a lack of demonstrated consistent functional effects of particular bacterial species in the microbiota.
Bartek Nogal, PhD, principal scientist at InsideTracker and the lead author of the paper, noted that the company does not currently offer microbiome testing, so set out to inform its own product development. “We noticed there was a critical mass of scientific evidence out there to enable an informed product decision, and we also thought that some of the insights we gathered might be useful to the personalized nutrition industry as a whole, so decided to publish the findings,” he stated.
Based on the team’s review, he said there is a need for more standardisation of sample handling and preparation, as well as the ability to see the repeatable effects of specific interventions applied across larger populations in clinical trials. At this time, Dr Nogal added, there is not a favorable cost/benefit analysis compared to using other established biomarkers.
He commented: “Guidance from microbiota testing is currently largely descriptive vs. prescriptive for the generally healthy. … Once we see consistent effects of precision interventions (as opposed to just “eat a more diverse, fiber-rich diet” guidance, which is beneficial to virtually all people), then we may be able to make more useful claims about what microbiome analysis can do. … Ultimately, it may come down to having enough longitudinal information about what constitutes ‘optimal’ on the individual level to establish healthy baselines across the population.”