Since its launch in 2012, the Gut Microbiota for Health (GMFH) platform has been committed to sharing knowledge and raising awareness about gut microbiota and its importance for our health, ensuring the information available on the platform is both trustworthy and complete. As the food we eat plays an essential role in maintaining the diversity and proper functioning of our gut microbiota, a focus is on the influence of foods, nutrients, and dietary patterns on human health linked to their effect on the gut microbiota.
While Gut Microbiota News Watch is dedicated to expanding knowledge about gut microbiota’s importance for health among society in general, Gut Microbiota Research & Practice is dedicated to promoting debate among researchers, scientists and healthcare professionals. This year we’ve integrated Food 4 Gut Health in GMFH as a way to enrich current content with science-backed information on diet, nutrition and the gut microbiota. Food 4 Gut Health Twitter and Instagram channels will help to engage and promote debate with digital opinion leaders and dietitians on nutrition and gut health-related topics.
Prof. Paul Enck has undertaken the role of head of editorial since the early stages of the project and on behalf of the GMFH team we would like to thank him for the involvement and constant support in the project. Last October marked a change, however, as Rene van den Wijngaard took over as editorial lead for the GMFH publishing team.
The GMFH Editing Team spoke to Paul Enck and Rene van den Wijngaard about the evolution of the GMFH project, highlighting the milestones achieved and news to come.
The gut microbiota is a topic with rising importance in the scientific community and the lay public where communicating the science presents huge challenges. What have you learned while working in GMFH on creating awareness on gut microbiota and its role on health?
Paul Enck: I have learned that the delicate balance between novel scientific finding that may outline important future options in medical diagnosis and therapy, and the demand of the public for the latest and hottest developments in medically and socially relevant areas (such as nutrition), yet beyond easy understanding for most, requires responsible journalists and (social) media able to communicate with both the scientific community and the lay public. This is what GMFH has achieved.
What are your wishes for the upcoming years for GMFH?
P.E.: Having participated in the birth and contributed to the growth of GMFH over the past decade has given me intense pleasure, not only because GMFH kept pace with the explosion of knowledge in the area of (gut) microbiota & health, but also because it moved the field forward itself and became a leading information source for experts as well as those that lost track of the latest developments and need guidance. While nobody can predict whether past growth will continue in the future, and at the same speed, I believe that GMFH has not yet reached its summit, and I wish GMFH the support to be able to continue all the way along.
Rene van den Wijngaard has been appointed by the Gut Microbiota & Health Board of Directors to replace Paul Enck. After one year working as a duo, Rene van den Wijngaard has taken the position as the new editorial head in October 2019. Working at the Academic Medical Center at University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands), his main research focus is the role of immune cells and gut fungi in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
With studies emerging from labs all over the world, researchers and the general public struggle with keeping updated in this rapidly-evolving field. Based on your everyday experience in GMFH, can you share some tips to not misinterpret the findings of microbiome research?
Rene van den Wijngaard:
I think it is important to keep in mind that a lot of clear cut evidence showing a direct link between gut microbiome alterations and diseases/disorders comes from animal studies. In human it is much more difficult to distinguish cause from consequence and most study results merely show correlations between so called ‘dysbiosis’ and a wide range of diseases. Our readers should keep in mind that, although the field is most promising, science has only just begun to address causality in patients.
It is also important not to underestimate the complexity of the gut microbiome. Because most studies focus on bacteria only, one may forget that the human gut also harbors yeasts, viruses, protozoa and archaea that may all contribute to health and disease. In science, in order to move forward, we often oversimplify but in the end the bigger picture has to be taken into account as well. This may shift our way of thinking when identifying possible culprits.
Last but not least, current research activity is adding another degree of complexity by addressing metabolic activity. In the early days of the ‘microbiome boom’ presence or absence of certain species was regarded enough to presume relevance. Now, metabolomics provides an accurate picture of the microbiomes physiological state, and metabolites are being investigated in relation to host health and disease. This recent development not only shows the forward movement of the gut microbiome field, but also indicates that earlier interpretations should be regarded with caution.
As the new Editorial Head of GMFH, could you please share some words about how you see the future of this public information service by ESNM?
During the last 8 years, GMFH has built a huge community with more than 85,000 scientists, health practitioners and lay public interested in science-based information regarding the latest developments on gut microbiota and the role of diet, prebiotics and probiotics in keeping it healthy.
Aware of the current overload information with the gut microbiota, our aim is to keep our readers up-to-date on the latest facts and news about gut microbiota in and easy-to-understand language. We develop updated gut microbiota-related articles, event reports, e-learning activities and infographics close to our community main interests in the field of gut health.
Our publishing team looks forward to continued coverage from the front lines of gut microbiota science! Thanks for being part of our community.