Your gut bacteria will not be happy if you eat barbecue for 5 straight days

Hey readers! Welcome to another week of my blog. I submitted my poster for printing this afternoon, so for the next week I will be finishing a couple of experiments and practicing for our poster presentation on Friday. For this week’s blog post, I will be reflecting on one of the many faculty talks that I heard this summer through our program. My favorite of the talks has been Dr. Lawrence David’s. I loved hearing Dr. David’s faculty talk. His energy about the bacteria that live in our gut was infectious and his love for his field was clear. I have had a curiosity for the microbiome especially recently as more and more fundamental processes have been shown to be linked to the bacteria that live in our digestive tract. Dr. David is clearly a well-known figure in the field as some of his papers have been published in the top scientific journals.

Dr. David described his research most basically as “designing meals and feeding them to people.” It’s amazing to me that such a simple experimental setup can yield such clinically relevant data. One of the experiments Dr. David described involved feeding participants either barbecue or a plant based diet for 5 days. He monitored the composition of their microbiome throughout the experiment and compared how their microbiome changed. It was amazing to see how the barbecue group’s microbiomes were significantly altered after just 5 days, whereas the plant group’s microbiome hardly shifted and returned to normal levels quickly. Dr. David also mentioned that the participants that had the barbecue were in general more cranky. I probably would be too if I only ate barbecue for a week, and maybe the microbiome is part of the reason why.

Dr. David also talked a lot about the importance of the Human Genome Project and how it impacted microbiome research. After the HGP, the cost of DNA sequencing dropped, and continues to drop, allowing microbiotic sequencing studies to be cost efficient. The decrease in cost vitalized the field of microbiome research, leading to a lot of the discoveries that have since come out. Dr. David also mentioned some of his clinical trials that are currently underway. One of these involves feeding participants fiber supplements to try to strengthen the diversity of the microbiome. He said to us that a lot of the yogurts and other probiotics that claim to be beneficial to our microbiome probably have no effect on our microbiome, but a diet high in fiber likely does. This was news to me, as I had always believed that yogurt (which contains live cultures of bacteria) helps seed diverse populations of bacteria in the gut.

It was a pleasure listening to Dr. David’s talk. In addition to the exciting science, Dr. David shared a lot of his opinions on careers in science, graduate school, and research. His faculty talk was especially enjoyable and memorable. Since this is the last week of my summer research through BSURF, I only have one more blog post which will be a reflection on the summer. See you then!

-Brennan

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