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…

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…

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,…

Paleo poo and what it might mean for you

Humans have lived in caves and rock shelters for millions of years. Over time – long periods of time – the detritus of daily life mixed with sediments that blew in from the outside and the floor of the cave literally rose beneath their ancient feet, sealing below evidence of past activities. And if we…

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…

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…

Probiotics or Prebiotics: which would Darwin choose?

“Darwin” you are probably wondering, “what does he have to do with this?” A better choice might have been the Nobel prize-winning Russian zoologist Elie Metchnikoff (though few would recognize his name). He, like Darwin, exerted almost clairvoyant-like insight into biology and medicine, and his observation that many Bulgarians who consumed foods fermented with Lactobacilli…

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…

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…