The international conference Nutrients 2019  – Nutritional Advances in the Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease was held from September 25-27 in Barcelona (Spain), organized by the MDPI open-access journal Nutrients.

GMFH editors attended a special session on nutrients and the microbiome on September 26.

The session was chaired by Annemie Schols from Maastricht University (Netherlands) and covered recent research into the implications of gut microbiome manipulation through diet and drug treatments for both health and disease.

Hwayoung Noh from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon (France) opened the session with a cross-sectional study exploring the effect of dietary intake at food and nutrient levels on gut microbiota composition and diversity in healthy Korean adults.

A Korean dietary pattern is characterized by a high intake of vegetables, fermented legumes, potatoes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, along with low intakes of noodles and carbonated and sweet beverages. This diet was associated with a high within-subject (alpha) diversity of the gut microbiota and a high presence of some genera within Firmicutes (Eubacterium, Lactobacillus and Ruminococcus).

Specific dietary patterns associated with gut microbiota diversity were also found, such as an increased presence of Actinobacteria and a high intake of dairy products. On the other hand, the research also showed a high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and an increased presence of Firmicutes.

Carles Lerín from Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Barcelona (Spain) presented some preliminary results regarding the contribution of diet and gut microbiota composition to the degree of obesity in children with Prader-Willi syndrome.

The interest in exploring the gut microbiota as a potential target for alleviating metabolic deteriorations in this population of children came from a previous study that showed how the gut microbiota makes an etiological contribution to genetic obesity.

In a cohort of 31 children with Prader-Willi syndrome, higher saturated fat intake was associated with higher body mass index (BMI). Furthermore, lower fruit intake and higher meat intake were associated with higher BMI.

The observed associations between dietary patterns and BMI were accompanied by specific changes in gut microbiota composition. The gut microbiota of children with Prader-Willi syndrome was characterized by a high relative abundance of Bifidobacterium and the butyrate-producer Blautia. Moreover, BMI and meat intake showed a direct correlation with Eubacterium and an inverse correlation with Alistipes and Christensenella, the functional consequences of which are unknown.

As a second step, Lerín and colleagues will perform a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study to explore the extent to which a probiotic might benefit children with Prader-Willi syndrome who show resistance to weight loss despite calorie restriction and strict dietary habits.

Adrián Cortés-Martín from the Laboratory of Food & Health at the Spanish National Research Council in Murcia (Spain) showed that drug treatments may partially determine the effects of pomegranate consumption on the gut microbiota in polymedicated metabolic syndrome patients.

Drug treatments used to manage cardiovascular-associated risk (oral antidiabetics, hypotensive drugs and statins) had differential effects on the gut microbiota of metabolic syndrome patients. The most profound effect of medication on the gut microbiota was observed when patients consumed 3 different types of drugs, which led to depleted levels of butyrate-producing bacteria.

Following pomegranate consumption in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled and crossover design, Cortés-Martín and colleagues observed that the medication type determined the prebiotic effect of pomegranate in 54 adult patients with metabolic syndrome. For instance, statins and hypotensive drugs diminished the pomegranate effect on Bifidobacterium, whereas antidiabetics had no impact in this regard.

Finally, Francisco Pérez-Cano from the University of Barcelona (Spain) showed preclinical results on how the mother-offspring transfer of fatty acids, immunoglobulins and microbiota may occur.

The composition of these components showed correlations between the three compartments under analysis. Immunoglobulin G dominated both the plasma and breast milk of dams and the plasma of pups, and showed strong correlations between compartments.

The plasma and breast milk of dams and the plasma of pups shared between 70%-90% of the microbiota composition, which also showed correlations with the fatty acid profile (e.g. Lactobacillus vs. monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) and immune response (e.g. Bifidobacterium vs IgM).

On the whole, Pérez-Cano’s findings showed evidence of fatty acids, immunoglobulins and microbiota transmission from dams to pups through breast milk. Based on these results in rats, his research group will evaluate if nutritional interventions in the mother aimed at improving fatty acids, immunoglobulins and the microbiota profile might have an impact on newborn responses to infection.