Can’t see the forest for the microbes

  Cryotube-wielding scientists are the latest in a long line of researchers studying hunter-gatherer groups throughout the world that seek balance between the prying nature of research and the rights and respect of indigenous cultures. In a timely discussion, Dominguez-Bello and others[1] foretell of a future where mining the microbial richness of native peoples is…

The Human Microbiome as Road Kill in the Age of the Anthropocene

  With the world entering a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – the idea that we now live in a very different world than the one our not-so-distant ancestors inhabited, has never been truer. But amidst global deforestation, melting ice sheets, and general biosphere degradation, perhaps the human microbiome – the collection of our…

Paleo versus Vegetarian – who eats more fiber?

I often hear Paleo and Primal eaters say their shopping carts almost always look like that of a vegetarian grazing through the same super market when it comes to the non-grain veggies it contains. This comment – in my experience – often follows when addressing critics who say that a Paleo/Primal diet focused on fat…

Microbial Diversity: sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t

This past January I wanted to see what would happen to my gut flora if I adopted a hunter-gatherer diet for a week – eating the plants, animals and drinking the same water as the Hadza hunter-gatherers of east Africa that I was working with. Among other hypothesis I wanted to test, would immersing myself…

(Re)Becoming Human

AS THE SUN set over Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, nearly thirty minutes had passed since I had inserted a turkey baster into my bum and injected the feces of a Hadza man – a member of one of the last remaining hunter-gatherers tribes in the world – into the nether regions of my distal colon….

Please Pass the Microbes

A few days ago I accompanied two Hadza hunters to a series of seeps or springs where they had set up hunting blinds of tall grass to ambush thirsty animals. It’s late dry season in Tanzania and dwindling water sources force otherwise dispersed animals to aggregate, and if you’re a hunter-gatherer, this is a good…

Sorry low carbers, your microbiome is just not that into you

I recently posted a scatter plot (below) on Facebook/Twitter of preliminary metadata that we are accumulating as part of the American Gut project – which includes, among other things, a questionnaire of 50 + questions and a 7 day food journal. Plotting participants self-reported height, weight, and 7 days of dietary info (recorded using an…

Breaking A Plate for Human Health

It’s difficult to overstate how our growing understanding of the trillions of microbes that live on and in the human body is radically changing the way we think about health and the prevention and treatment of a myriad of diseases. Not since Darwin unleashed onto the world the concept of Natural Selection, have humans been…

Swapping microbes with your dog

We hug them, kiss them, sleep with them, and share our food with them – they are, of course, the family dog. In return, they share with us some of the microbes they pick up as they saunter about the neighborhood and places beyond. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder reveals…

Are you carrying the obesity pathogen?

I can remember where I was and what I was doing when it happened. I was sitting in my usual spot at Sound Café in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans sipping coffee on a Sunday morning. It was mid-August, 2006. It wasn’t a tragic event that locked this place and time in my memory,…

An eaters guide to a healthy microbiome

“I have 15 cows, how many do you have?” Chief Jambiru asked me. “How many cows do I have?” I thought. What an odd question. But I shouldn’t have that so, as I had just asked the Chief how many cows he owned. Turning my bovine query back on me caught me a little off…

Are you there Al Gore? It’s me, Microbiome

In the 50 years since the book “Silent Spring” sounded the alarm on humankind’s poisoning of the biosphere with synthetic pesticides like DDT, the grass roots environmental movement has tackled issues ranging from clean air and water, animal rights and acid rain to the more recent mega issue of global warming. Despite these and many…

Nutrition’s ‘dark matter’

AS ANY reader of this blog knows, the human body is a mash up of human and microbial cells – with the microbial cells outnumbering our own 10 to 1. When you also consider the fact the human genome (our first genome) contains only 22,000 genes, but that our gut microbiome (our second genome made…

A Window Into Your Health

Sitting on the floor of a traditional Himba hut in northern Namibia this past summer, I found myself staring at a peculiar hand-sized hole located about halfway up the curved wall thinking to myself, “what could be the purpose of such a small opening?” Turns out, it was the sole portal to the outside world…

Ghosts of our African Gut

Every person on earth has two genomes. The genome we inherit from mom and dad is the one we are most familiar, and more or less stuck with for life. Our second genome, the one we initially acquire from mom as we pass through the birth canal, is more dynamic and made up of the…

Guts, Germs and Meals: what 37 microbiologist say about diet

Earlier this year (in 2012), U.S. News & World Report  reported its second annual list of the Best Diets, as ranked by a panel of  “22 nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes, and heart disease.” The expert panel evaluated 28 diets including the well known Atkins, South Beach Diet, Biggest Loser…

You Smell Me Dawg?

HUMANS SPEND an awful lot of time and money trying to smell different – over $2 billion a year on antiperspirants and deodorants in the U.S. alone. It’s hard to imagine what that dollar amount might be once you add cologne and perfumes to the annual tally. On a more practical note, our keen smell…

Microbiome Swapping, It’s All the Rage

Parched, withered and feeling the burn is just another day in the life of a U.S. farmer this summer. The unprecedented heat wave pulsing across the Midwest Corn Belt is forecast to significantly reduce yields, impact a variety of other grains and seeds, and even raise prices in your local market for edible beasts. Though…

Kids are mammals, time we started treating them like it

A child born in the United States today has a one in three chance of entering this world through a surgical incision rather than a birth canal. A recent WHO report found C-section rates in private hospitals in Latin America and Asia could top 50 percent, with rates in China nearing “epidemic proportions.” With rates…

How Frank Gehry Could Reboot Health in America

The good folks over at Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation just unveiled a new home built in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward designed by no other than the internationally celebrated architect Frank Gehry. While the 83-year Gehry is best known for his jaw dropping museum and concert hall designs, the simple but important statement…

From turtles to tortillas: the evolution of our low GI diet

PACKED INTO four-wheel drive vehicles, ten middle-aged men and women traveled nearly two days on bumpy dirt roads and trails to reach a remote location, deep in the middle of nowhere. For seven weeks they would live off the land as hunter-gatherers, completely cut off from the niceties’ of the modern world they were born…

About the Human Food Project

Nobody tells a giraffe how to eat. But for the first time in history, humans don’t know what to eat. We no longer know what human food is. In just a few thousand centuries, our kind has gone from nesting in trees, to making stone tools and digging roots, to kindling fires, to subduing flora…

Do spider monkeys hold the key to why we get fat?

IN EARLY 2004, a team of researchers spent nearly five months in a lowland subtropical forest in Bolivia following spider monkeys – an arboreal primate that primarily dines on ripe fruit and leaves. From dawn to dusk, the researchers recorded every detail of the dietary habits of these wild spider monkeys. They monitored the length…