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Frequently Asked Questions

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In this article you will find an answer to frequently asked questions on the topics covered during this week.

1. Obesity is caused by overeating or eating the wrong foods; what is the inflammatory response’s role in this process?

There is much evidence that links obesity with inflammation. In obesity, the adipose tissue expands, and the recruitment of immune cells accompanies this expansion. The activation of the immune system contributes to the impairment of the metabolic health associated with obesity.

2. If antibiotics can make adverse changes to your gut biota, is it always best to try to kill off any harmful bacteria by shifting your microbiome’s balance towards good bacteria by consuming probiotics rather than using antibiotics?

In case of an infection, the intake of probiotics, prebiotics, or fermented food cannot replace antibiotics. Instead, these do help to recover the intestinal ecosystem that is impaired due to antibiotic intake.

3. The immune system was historically described as an army designed to kill every single germ. Are allergic and autoimmune diseases becoming more common because we now have less of these bacteria?

This is the key idea of the so-called “Hygiene Hypothesis”. This hypothesis states a link between the increased hygiene in the last decades with the current increase in allergic and autoimmune disorders. This is based on the fact that exposure to microbes is crucial for the proper development of the immune system, influencing the later development of immune-based diseases.

4. What is healthy food?

A healthy diet is one that supports our physical and psychological health throughout our lifespan. A diet high in fibre, based on plant food sources with limited amounts of animal products, such as oily fish, is beneficial to our health. A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, excess fat, and salt, which is low in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, is not good for anyone’s long term health.

Besides, food is more than just a source of nutrients. We eat for pleasure, we celebrate with food. Food also plays a role in culture, faith, and identity, so it is essential to establish a healthy psychological relationship with food. Besides, our diet and how we eat have an impact on the environment and climate change.

5. If Bacteroides are so bad for our health, is it possible to eliminate them from our gut?

Bacteroides are a vast genus of bacteria, which includes bacteria with pathogenic potential. However, there are also some Bacteroides that are normal members of a healthy microbiota. Indeed, some strains of Bacteroides are being investigated as potential probiotics to improve human health.

6. What we understand with the term “western diet”?

The term “Western diets” is used in the scientific literature to refer to a diet based on processed foods, “fast food,” convenience products, snacks, sugary soft drinks, and lack fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Today, under the forces of globalisation, this term informs about the nutritional quality of a food pattern rather more than locating it geographically to a specific territory.

7. Are there some studies about specific gut microbiota alteration for mental illnesses? What about rehabilitation programs that involve this aspect too?

The investigation of the potential of the microbiome in the context of mental health is very new. So far, we have mainly learned that some of these conditions are associated with gut microbiota composition changes. Still, the results are too preliminary to introduce them in regular treatments. However, the microbiome science is promising, and maybe this aspect could be included in the middle-term future!

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The Human Microbiome

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