(This report can be downloaded for free as a PDF.)

One of the most intimate relationships that our body has with the outside world is through our gut. Our gastrointestinal tracts harbor a vast and still largely unexplored microbial world known as the human microbiome that scientists are only just beginning to understand. Researchers are recognizing the integral role of the microbiome in human physiology, health, and disease — with microbes playing critical roles in many host metabolic pathways — and the intimate nature of the relationships between the microbiome and both host physiology and host diet. While there is still a great deal to learn, the newfound knowledge already is being used to develop dietary interventions aimed at preventing and modifying disease risk by leveraging the microbiome.

The IOM’s Food Forum held a public workshop on February 22-23, 2012, to explore current and emerging knowledge on the human microbiome, its role in human health, its interaction with the diet, and the translation of new research findings into tools and products that improve the healthfulness of the food supply. This document summarizes the workshop.