Diversity In Our Diets | Adventures in Genomics
Complex diseases have increased dramatically over the last few decades. Many of these are associated with abnormalities in composition of the microbiome, but the cause/effect relationship still remains to be understood. To address this important question, on September 16, 2016, the University of Nebraska announced a visionary initiative to change the way people experience food, agriculture and medicine through the new Nebraska Food for Health Center (NFHC). Jacques and Irene meet Andrew Benson, Distinguished professor at the University of Nebraska and Director of the NFHC, to discuss how changes in the diet and the processing of foods might have led to the loss of important nutrients, and what his team is doing to recover such loss.
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[00:00:02.151]A lot of the complex diseases
[00:00:04.046]that we have seen dramatic increases in
[00:00:06.698]over the last few decades, are associated with abnormalities
[00:00:10.585]in composition of a microbiome.
[00:00:13.920]The cause-effect relationship
[00:00:15.316]still remains to be understood.
[00:00:17.678]Clearly, we start asking the question,
[00:00:19.533]what's the role of diet?
[00:00:21.315]What is the role of post-genetic factors?
[00:00:24.469]And how to all these factors converge
[00:00:26.767]to bring about health or disease states?
[00:00:34.151](light piano music)
[00:00:49.501]It is just amazing to see the extent
[00:00:51.875]and the efficiency of the agriculture here in Nebraska.
[00:00:54.831]Yah, genomic selection
[00:00:56.456]is an important tool in agriculture.
[00:00:59.035]The University of Nebraska has an interesting program
[00:01:01.595]looking at the correlations
[00:01:03.079]between plants, microbes, and human health.
[00:01:06.567](up-tempo electronic beat)
[00:01:13.084]Why are diseases such as inflammatory diseases
[00:01:16.053]increasing so much in the population?
[00:01:18.280]A lot of that might be due to changes in diet
[00:01:20.780]that we've had over the last few decades.
[00:01:23.727]One of the things you see in dietary patterns,
[00:01:26.390]especially in Westernized countries,
[00:01:28.524]is a reduction in the diversity of compounds
[00:01:32.298]that are in a lot of the foods.
[00:01:33.969]How to manipulate the gut ecosystem for better health?
[00:01:37.698]The number of dietary molecules or dietary compounds
[00:01:41.136]that we really know about,
[00:01:42.719]and understand just how it influences the microbiome
[00:01:45.851]and the gut ecosystem, is really rather small.
[00:01:49.259]And we'd really like to increase that,
[00:01:51.064]and be very systematic about having a whole arsenal
[00:01:53.998]of molecules and food ingredients that we can use
[00:01:58.642]in a very predictable way to influence health
[00:02:01.944]through the gut ecosystem.
[00:02:04.019](up-tempo electronic beat)
[00:02:07.472]How would you go about discovering those compounds?
[00:02:10.055]Exploit genetic diversity,
[00:02:12.391]insploit genomics and breeding in plants,
[00:02:14.830]to be able to screen the type of molecular diversity
[00:02:18.402]that plants are capable of generating,
[00:02:20.832]and let that inform us as to what potential compounds
[00:02:25.106]might influence the microbiome.
[00:02:27.316]Would that be natural diversity?
[00:02:29.265]Yes, indeed we can rely upon the natural diversity
[00:02:32.370]that exists in these types of plants,
[00:02:34.154]and exploit that for discovery processes.
[00:02:37.371]And as you can see in the field behind us, here,
[00:02:39.980]the amount of genetic diversity that exists
[00:02:42.705]in some of these plant species is just tremendous.
[00:02:45.900]In a field environment,
[00:02:48.432]it's very difficult to make many measurements
[00:02:50.059]of the same plant over and over again.
[00:02:51.709]So really exciting things here,
[00:02:52.733]as we can measure the same exact plants
[00:02:55.464]every couple of days, but we can look at variation
[00:02:57.683]and chemical composition using a hyperspectral camera.
[00:03:00.084]We're starting to see some very exciting things,
[00:03:02.301]both about how the microbes can change the phenotype
[00:03:05.315]and the health of the plant,
[00:03:06.558]but also how genetic variation of the plant
[00:03:08.196]can control what microbes grow on its roots,
[00:03:11.111]which changes the health of the plant,
[00:03:12.563]changes the chemical composition of the plant
[00:03:14.247]and ultimately, could affect the nutritional value
[00:03:17.586]of the food we harvest from that plant.
[00:03:19.492](light, mid-tempo music)
[00:03:22.148]You really want to know and understand
[00:03:24.722]how those bacteria enter a plant,
[00:03:26.329]what their relationship is to each other,
[00:03:28.017]how many of them are there,
[00:03:31.134]and how many of the functions are there?
[00:03:33.251]Either functions that are proactively-degrading proteins,
[00:03:36.817]or proactively-degrading carbohydrates that you are eating.
[00:03:40.758]From the DNA, you basically get two sets of information:
[00:03:44.097]who is there, which are the bacteria,
[00:03:46.321]but also you get what are the potential functions,
[00:03:49.023]and this is extremely important.
[00:03:51.241]So how have we lost all these compounds?
[00:03:53.627]Because surely they must have been here all the time.
[00:03:56.714]We've lost molecular diversity in our food supply,
[00:03:59.339]and part of that has been
[00:04:00.658]through use of refined ingredients.
[00:04:03.358]We lose the molecular diversity,
[00:04:05.066]the very molecules that are feeding the microbiome.
[00:04:08.366]So once you identify molecules
[00:04:11.100]that are good for the health,
[00:04:12.782]how do you insert them into a diet?
[00:04:15.200]Food scientists are able to take those molecules
[00:04:18.057]and formulate them, package them together so to speak,
[00:04:21.580]into a food in a way that's palatable.
[00:04:25.315](up-tempo electronic beat)
[00:04:26.148]We could use test kitchens to prepare novel foods
[00:04:28.698]containing a prebiotic, or a probiotic in it.
[00:04:31.815]We have what we call our sensory analysis panel,
[00:04:34.208]and they evaluate those foods.
[00:04:36.262]What food scientists can do is make that ingredient
[00:04:39.745]taste like something consumers will eat,
[00:04:41.918]and ultimately it gives them a health benefit.
[00:04:44.811](up-tempo electronic beat)
[00:04:46.817]Genomics has a tremendous impact on our research,
[00:04:48.975]it gives us a wealth of information.
[00:04:51.377]We can identify specific species,
[00:04:53.420]and members of the gut microbiota.
[00:04:55.309]A gnotobiotic mouse has a known composition
[00:04:58.611]of the microbiota, so you can either maintain these animals
[00:05:01.483]germ-free, so they have no microbes in their bodies,
[00:05:04.424]or you can colonize them with very specific members
[00:05:06.782]of a gut microbiota in order to ask questions
[00:05:09.814]about the role of those individual organisms.
[00:05:12.386]We've learnt that there is a relationship,
[00:05:14.618]or an association, between changes in the composition
[00:05:17.060]of the microbiome, and certain immune-mediated diseases
[00:05:19.707]such as autoimmune diseases, lupus, multiple sclerosis.
[00:05:23.672](upbeat, mid-tempo music)
[00:05:25.522]We're really in kind of the infancy of what we understand
[00:05:28.483]about the microbiome for health.
[00:05:30.000]There's still a lot there that remains to be evaluated
[00:05:32.666]with the gut microbiome.
[00:05:34.350]And that's really a lot of interesting research into,
[00:05:37.853]in many ways, kind of atypical diseases.
[00:05:40.233]One of the key things is,
[00:05:41.645]is not just can you change the gut microbiome,
[00:05:43.563]but can you influence health in a way that's measurable?
[00:05:46.136](triumphant, up-tempo music)
[00:05:49.724]What inspires you about this work?
[00:05:51.610]There's a couple of things
[00:05:52.517]that really drive me personally.
[00:05:55.401]One is to be able to change the way we think
[00:05:57.894]about agriculture, and to change the way we think
[00:06:01.222]about a university system.
[00:06:04.058]We're essentially putting together elements
[00:06:06.539]from the entire university system,
[00:06:08.961]putting them together into a pipeline
[00:06:10.718]of discovery to translation.
[00:06:13.026]One of the directions we want to go,
[00:06:14.466]is to really understand how diet interacts
[00:06:18.317]with that gut ecosystem,
[00:06:20.554]and define molecules that can change the ecosystem.
[00:06:25.960](light, mid-tempo music)
[00:06:30.230]You know, when you come to a farmer's market like this,
[00:06:32.860]you realize how far
[00:06:33.972]we've become disconnected from the source.
[00:06:36.399]Yeah, and in the years
[00:06:37.595]with all the over-processing of foods,
[00:06:40.323]we've lost major components to a healthy diet.
[00:06:43.644]You know the good thing is, with their research,
[00:06:46.071]they actually can tell us now what we're missing.
[00:06:49.052]And more importantly, how to recover it.
[00:06:52.371](light, mid-tempo music)
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