Using machine learning, researchers have discovered that our diet and microbiota largely determine what circulates in our blood.
Do you know what the metabolome is? It is a concept that includes all the metabolites that are present in your biological secretions. The discipline that studies them is called metabolomics. These metabolites are often used to detect abnormalities and even diagnose diseases. For example, glucose is one of these metabolites and is measured during diabetes screening (often along with glycosylated hemoglobin). The factors that cause variations in the content of some metabolites are known, but for the vast majority of them, the main determinants are unknown.
Using machine learning, researchers were able to identify two basic factors in the variation of our blood metabolism.
Food and microbiome
In this experiment, published in Nature magazine, scientists measured the rates of 1,251 metabolites in a cohort of 491 healthy individuals. Using data sets that the algorithm had previously learned, it tried to predict the concentrations of the different metabolites in relation to what it knew about the participants, that is, data on host genetics, intestinal microbiota, clinical parameters, nutrition, lifestyle, and anthropometric measurements.
The two factors that made the best predictions were the participants’ nutrition and microbiome. They explain the variations in hundreds of metabolites more than half the time. The effect of intestinal microbiota was later confirmed in two other studies with other independent cohorts, leaving little room for doubt.
A diet that protects our metabolome
In the study, researchers also discovered causal relationships between certain foods that favor the development of certain bacterial strains and, consequently, of certain metabolites. For example, in a randomized study conducted in parallel with the study, robust correlations were found between certain metabolites and bread consumption.
Nutritionists pay attention to our diet in order to regulate the rate of certain metabolites and already do so in relation to diabetes or hypercholesterolemia, for example. However, with increasingly precise knowledge of the relationship between our metabolome and our diet, we could pave the way for studies to study the influence of diet on the prevention of certain diseases through the effects on the metabolome.
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