Human health

Imbalanced human gut microbiome negatively affects human health

The prevalence of NCDs, such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular diseases, is rising. According to the WHO, 74% of all deaths globally are caused by NCDs.

These NCDs are a result of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors combined. Mainly the latter two contribute to the population prevalence to which dietary quality stands out as a highly significant contributor. However, the nutritious value and quality of our crops is declining. Especially the Western lifestyle is associated with a high prevelance of these NCDs and contributes to high costs for society.

Source: Rener Health Clinics

Gut health and the gut microbiome are key players in the pathogenesis of these diseases. The reduced quality of our food negatively affects several functions important for gut health (e.g. gut motility, permeability, and the composition and functioning of our gut microbiome). Diet and food quality influence microbial diversity and its functions. Poor food quality has the potential to disrupt the balance within the microbiome, characterized by substantial changes in both the diversity and function of intestinal microorganisms, and this imbalance is closely associated with the origins of chronic NCDs.

The precise mechanisms by which diet and food choices modulate gut microbiome species and functional diversity are not fully understood, but it is possible that the nutritional quality of crops, the microbiome of these crops, and the soil microbiome all play a role. These elements are influenced by soil health and the ecosystem services provided by soil and its microbiome, which are ultimately shaped by agricultural processes.

It is worth noting that the average daily vegetable intake in the Netherlands is 143 grams per day per adult, which falls short of the recommended daily amount of 200 grams. This means that most adults in the country are exposed to vegetables on a daily basis and could benefit from improved food quality.

Aim of the project

The second aim of Soils2guts is to decipher how crop quality and plant-associated microbiomes impact the human gut microbiome, gut health and human health.

Experts in this field

In RUG, prof. S. El Aidy provides expertise in host-microbiome interactions with particular focus on metabolic exchange and the molecular processes that direct the dynamic interplay of microbiota and (human)host. The group uses an inter-disciplinary approach at the interface of chemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, physiology, and bioinformatics. In Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences, Dr. M. Sura-de Jong works on the link between soil, crop and human health, with a focus on crop (protein) nutrient quality. She has extensive knowledge of GMO’s and international experience in advising policymakers.

In the LUMC (dept of Gastroenterology & Hepatology; Dr. P.W.J. Maljaars, MD & Dr. M. Tushuizen, MD) there is extensive experience in performing human intervention studies, both in healthy volunteers as well as in different patient groups. Facilities are available and often used to collect patient data, and stool and blood samples. Well-defined patient cohorts exist in different disease areas including but not limited to inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, auto-immune liver diseases. At Maastricht University (NUTRIM; Prof. D. Jonker, Prof. J. Penders) there is large expertise in analyzing intestinal health, the impact of diet and the bidirectional interaction with the microbiome (Dept. Gastroenterology-Hepatology and Med. Microbiology and Infectious Diseases). Additionally, they have a state-of-the-art metabolic research facilities for performing human intervention studies and access to large patient cohorts.

Dr. P.W.J. Maljaars (MD, PhD)

  • Gastroenterologist (LUMC)

Dr. M.E. Tushuizen (MD, PhD)

  • Gastroenterologist (LUMC)

Prof.dr. S. El Aidy

  • University of Groningen (RUG), Faculty of Science and engineering
  • Associate professor
  • Microbiology, molecular physiology/biology

Dr. M. Sura-de Jong

  • Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences
  • Lector (professor of applied sciences)
  • Soil, plant, gut microbiome, sustainable food production, protein transition

Prof. dr. D. Jonkers

  • Maastricht University (NUTRIM)
  • Professor
  • Gut microbiome, gut physiology

Prof. dr. J. Penders

  • Maastricht University (NUTRIM)
  • Associate Professor
  • Gut microbiome


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