I know it’s a week into 2017, but let me first wish everyone a Happy New Year! I hope the turning of the calendar was filled with joy, celebrations, and of course fireworks…

microbe-fireworks(Even if they weren’t microbial…)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been busy talking in the media on one of the most common topics around this time of year…

resolutions(Did you make a list?)

Two of the top goals are weight loss and getting more exercise. I’m sure that at one time or another you or someone you know has made a promise to achieve these very important objectives.

But even if we strive to shed the pounds and get a little more toned, the odds may be against us. Though we may blame peer pressure, lack of willpower, or some other understandable excuse for not getting the results, there could be another reason for the failure…

gut(Gut microbes…)

Quite a few studies have come out showing both of these goals can only be achieved when you have a highly diverse population of bacteria. When diversity drops, so does the potential to regain health through these resolutions. This condition of having poor microbial diversity has even been given a buzzword and definition…

dysbiosis-2(DYSBIOSIS)

For ecologists this statement makes sense. After all, we are all individual biospheres made up of trillions of cellular organisms all trying to co-exist. If we can maintain a good diversity, everyone wins. But if certain species tend to win out over others, bad things can happen.

How bad can it get? Well, a good part of a certain book examines these troubles…

germ-files(Did anyone get it for Christmas?)

If you are looking for a more academic perspective, there’s an option for you too…

hmh(Notice the co-editor?)

For people undertaking resolutions, the two most important consequences of dysbiosis happen to be improper weight and energy balance. In terms of diet, dysbiosis can resist an attempt to increase diversity for longer than most detox/cleanses/fads last. As for exercise, fatigue and diarrhea are common side effects of dysbiosis. Unless people persevere through the pressures – both mentally and physically – they are likely to…

garfield_faceplant(You get the idea…)

This isn’t the worst of the story. Thanks to years of studying the effect of diet on microbial diversity, one particular way of eating appears to have the most likely chance of leading to dysbiosis…

unhealthy_fast_food(The Standard American Diet…)

This isn’t new information, of course. For close to half a century, we’ve heard about the health troubles associated with this diet. In essence, everyone knows this diet is bad.

Thankfully, many food companies have heard this message and sought to improve the situation. Unfortunately, their idea of changing the product is a little different than the recommendations from public health experts…

labels(Put a label on it!)

Of course, these fancy labels usually refer to only one particular aspect of the product. They also rarely have any real information on the health benefit. You are asked to trust the manufacturer and blindly buy the product.

I’m not a fan of this type of marketing but I also know this is the current reality. Nothing is going change. So, in that respect, I’m going to take the approach of a particular carrot-munching critter with a distinctive New York accent…

bugs-bunny(If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em)

Instead of asking companies to give up on the myriad of different types of single-benefit labels, I think it’s time to suggest a new kind of addition to the package. But this time, make the claim universal in nature. Make sure it takes into consideration both humans and microbes.

In other words…show us your product…

dysbiosis-anti(Does not contribute to dysbiosis…)

I know this is a long shot and never may be given any consideration by food production companies. But, I have to ask…if you knew a label would help to ensure improved microbial diversity, wouldn’t you like to see it? Perhaps more importantly, if you didn’t see this label and were not sure if it could lead to dysbiosis, would you be more inclined to leave it on the shelf?

Let me know what you think in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts on diversity, dysbiosis, and diet.

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