As promised, I am writing my annual review of top stories from the previous year but this time, I’m not picking my favorites, I’m picking yours. I thought it would be fun to see which of my posts got the top views for the year.
So, for your enjoyment, here are the top 5:
At number 5: February 14th: Your Blood Type and Your Microbiome
This was one of my personal favorite posts of the year as the information in was entirely new to me: the antigens in your blood that designate it type A, B, AB, or O (which are carbohydrates that evokes an immune response), are also expressed on platelets, immune cells, bodily excretions, tissues, etc. These antigens, as it turns out, have a major effect on the composition of the gut flora. One of the studies I describe in this post states: “Our novel finding indicates that the ABO blood group is one of the genetically determined host factors modulating he composition of the human intestinal microbiota, thus enabling new applications in the field of personalized nutrition and medicine.” This may go a long way toward explaining the individual variations in gut flora composition found even among health individuals.
This post provides strong support for the biome depletion paradigm (formerly known as the hygiene hypothesis). It’s about how our modern lifestyles have led to massive and abrupt changes to our biomes, leading to our current epidemic of inflammatory diseases and obesity. For example, our western diets – high in unhealthy fats and sugar – have led to a global disturbance of the gut flora. The main paper I focus on in this post concludes, “Public health efforts to counter negative effects of the Western diet, support breastfeeding, and assure access to high-fiber, low-sugar, and low-fat foods may have an outsized effect on seemingly unrelated widespread diseases such as diabetes, autism, and childhood obesity.”
I referred to this old post just this past Tuesday. I was really surprised at the enormous viewership this April post received. It describes a small study on 22 people with Spondylitis and the significant differences found between their microbiomes and those of healthy controls. The biggest surprise to me was that it was the degree of mycobiome (yeast) dysbiosis that correlated to disease severity and the level of inflammation in the body, more than the dysbiotic bacteria. I’m not sure that finding has yet been replicated, but certainly – as I talked about on Tuesday – the altered bacterial microbiome found in those with the disease now has been.
If you remember, I was really nervous about writing this one, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Reader response was very balanced and you all seemed to find this as scientifically interesting as me. As I wrote last August, “When you consider that at least 70% of your immune system is in your gut, and the crucial role we now know the gut flora plays in immunity, it makes perfectly logical sense that there may be a connection, especially considering the variability in immune responses to vaccines. Some people require only 1 to achieve a lifetime of immunity while other people need to be re-inoculated multiple times, while still others never gain immunity at all. Why that is, no one knows, but scientists are starting to suspect that gut bacterial variability is a key factor.”
You all know how much I love coincidences! Well, what was crazy about this post was that a week later, big news came out of Stamford University that was all over the press: “People’s response to flu vaccine influenced by gut microbes: Decimating levels of intestinal bacteria with antibiotics reduced the immune system’s responsiveness to a seasonal influenza vaccination, a Stanford-led study found.”[i]
I am particularly glad that this is a growing area of research as its importance cannot be overstated.
At number 1, most read post this past year: June 13: Zeoring in on an Inflammatory Bowel Disease Culprit
Researchers at Harvard University have narrowed down the bacterial culprits in IBD and one of the prime suspects is a little-known species that ordinarily comprises less than 1% of our flora: Ruminococcus gnavus. During IBD flare-ups though, this little devil can jump to 50% of the bacteria in the gut and it produces a polysaccharide that causes huge increases in inflammation in the body. No one yet knows why or how this bacteria suddenly blooms, but as their findings were so significant, research is ongoing. Hopefully I’ll be able to report more on this story in 2020.