Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

MetaHIT Promises Answers for the Gut

The Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT) project comes from the European Commission. It's goals are almost as lofty of that of the human genome project.

A detailed understanding of human biology will require not only knowledge of the human genome but also of the human metagenome, defined here as the ensemble of the genomes of human-associated microorganisms. Our proposal focuses on the microorganisms of the gut, which are particularly abundant and complex and have an important role for human health and well-being.

A page on their currently ongoing work by Julia Karow of shows a multi-million dollar effort with involvement from more than a dozen countries, including the U.S.

A shorter and easier to read article from The Economist summarizes some of the work, including that on Inflammatory Bowel Disease, always a concern to those of us with known intestinal issues.
Meanwhile, a $30m European Union project—the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract (MetaHIT)—is concentrating on the links between gut bacteria and obesity and inflammation. Research has already found a big difference between the bacteria population in the guts of fat and thin people. Moreover, when obese people went on a diet and lost up to a quarter of their body weight, their gut flora changed too, becoming more like those of the lean group. So, could giving more of the lean type of gut bacteria to fat people help them lose weight? That is one of the questions the project hopes to answer. There is evidence it may. Certain probiotics can affect the production of bile acids, which in turn affect how much fat people absorb.

MetaHIT is also looking at how metabolites in the gut influence the efficacy of drugs in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Certainly gut bacteria and inflammation are intimately entwined. Marika Kullberg of the University of York described last month how a molecule produced by one type of bacteria can calm the inflamed guts of mice.

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