Last week, I read about the metabolome for the first time. Funny word, I thought, reading it as meta….bolome. Then, as I began to read through the article[i] I realized I was putting the accent on the wrong syllable. Metabo – lome….as in metabo-lites! Doh.
Someone needed a nap badly.
The metabolome refers to the metabolites produced by the bacteria of the microbiome, according to the article’s author. (Way too narrow a definition, as the yeasts and macrobiotic organisms in the biome also produce metabolites.) These metabolites allow the microbiome to communicate with the host – this is how they affect our digestion, our behavior, and our health.
The article provides some fascinating examples of research into these metabolites.
- Researchers have found specific metabolites in infants that have proven to be markers for the risk of developing asthma and allergies. In the at-risk children, they found deficiencies of several bacterial species and these children also had high levels of inflammatory cytokines and low levels of those that protect against asthma and allergy.
- Metabolite differences have also been found in those with mental illnesses, including autism. In one mouse study, in a model of autism, researchers found increased levels of 2 species of bacteria and raised levels of various metabolites. Injecting healthy mice with one of these metabolites caused autistic-like behaviors. (You realize of course, that this provides even more fodder for the SCD grist mill!)
This concept is not at all new to me (but the word metabolome certainly was). For example, for years I’ve followed the work of Derek McFabe, a Canadian researcher, who has looked at proprionic acid’s (a metabolite of certain gut bacteria) relationship to autism for well over a decade. More on this in my next post.