Healthy Living

In just the past few years, understanding of the microbiome has transformed how we perceive diet and nutrition, and is already altering how we take care of ourselves. Weizmann Institute scientists from a range of disciplines – just some of which are immunology, neuroscience, biology, genetics, chemistry, machine learning, mathematics, and computer science – have led the way in microbiome research, regularly producing headline-making discoveries. Several of these researchers are also medical doctors, and their experience in working with patients helps move therapies more quickly from the lab to you.

But what is the microbiome? It’s the mighty army of microbes – bacteria, fungi, even viruses – that live in the gut. A thriving, diverse gut microbiota population is essential to our health in myriad ways, and plays a role in everything from weight to anxiety to diabetes, with more impacts being discovered all the time. In fact, it’s so important to protecting our health and well-being that it’s often called the second immune system.

Weizmann’s creative, innovative scientists are learning how to harness the microbiome for a healthier, happier world. Here is just some of their current research:

  • Personalized nutrition. What if ice cream was good for you?

    Or if not exactly healthy, not unhealthy, either. Or it might be healthy for your friend but not you. This is just some of the surprising information revealed by Profs. Eran Elinav and Eran Segal’s research on nutrition and gut microbiota.

    Blood sugar (glucose) levels are linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic disorders, all of which take a tremendous toll on both the individual and society in general. Alarmed by the ever-increasing global spread of these conditions, Profs. Elinav and Segal created the Personalized Nutrition Project, which includes developing metabolic profiles of volunteers in order to understand the gut microbiota’s role in the development of metabolic diseases.

    One of their surprising findings was that people respond to food in radically different ways. For example, some had normal blood sugar levels after eating ice cream, but not, say, brown rice or tomatoes. Some had high blood sugar after eating factory-produced white bread, while others did after eating whole-grain, artisanal bread.

    What caused these remarkable differences? The microbiome.

    The scientists were able to create algorithms that predicted the response of each participant’s microbiota to a wide variety of foods and fashioned personalized, health-boosting diets for them. Their method – further developed with such prestigious partners as the Mayo Clinic and Johnson & Johnson – was recently released to the public as Day Two.

    Family Dinner

  • Diet foods are not. In another discovery that made global headlines, Profs. Elinav and Segal showed that artificial sweeteners, promoted for decades as weight loss aids, could actually lead to glucose intolerance and metabolic disease by altering the gut microbiota. It is not a coincidence that obesity and diabetes rates began soaring as more and more people consumed increasing amounts of highly processed, low- and fat-free food and drink products. 

  • Nature vs. nurture in the gut. In an important new finding, Profs. Elinav and Segal have revealed that lifestyle, not genes, plays the greatest role in determining our microbiome. This overturns the prevailing “nature” theory and is good news, as it means that we have control over our gut microbiome and can “nurture” it to optimal health.

  • Watch the circadian clock. Our internal “body clocks” operate on a 24-hour day-night circadian period – and, as Dr. Gad Asher found, disruption to this delicate system can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver. This work is so important that the journal Cell called one of his findings the “missing link” between the body’s circadian clock and metabolism. Dr. Asher’s discoveries indicate that new types of drugs could be developed to modulate, even repair, the body’s biological clock in cases ranging from chronic sleep problems to jet lag to obesity and other metabolic diseases.

    Furthermore, Profs. Elinav and Segal, suspecting that our biological clocks work in tandem with our gut microbiota, proved that disrupted wake-sleep patterns do indeed change the microbiome, thereby increasing risk of glucose intolerance and obesity. 

  • Metabolism on the brain. Prof. Alon Chen, who studies stress disorders and their impacts on our health, has shown that flawed stress regulation and chronic activation of the stress response are linked to anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, metabolic syndrome, and the like.

    He also found that changing the action of a single gene in the brain led to two significant impacts in mice: their anxiety-related behavior increased, and they began to develop symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes – including dramatic changes in the metabolism of fats and sugars.

  • Powering up plants for health. Prof. Asaph Aharoni created a way to analyze the metabolome – the detailed metabolic profile – of plants and found “pathways” that can be altered – for example, boosted or blocked – to produce hardier, better-tasting, more nutritious crops. His studies of vitamins, flavonoids, and other antioxidants enabled him to create nutrient-rich purple potatoes, which confer significant health benefits. His methods can bring better health to people worldwide – whether in lands of plenty or those where hunger and malnutrition are rampant – simply by altering the metabolome of food plants.

Together, these scientists and their colleagues comprise a powerful interdisciplinary team with tremendous experience and creativity, collaborating to identify and address the risk factors for metabolic diseases and pioneering new treatments … and perhaps even cures. 

Personalized nutrition is personalized medicine – for the benefit of you.

Improving Health & Medicine

Better Living Through Science: Personalized Nutrition and Your Health

TAGS: Nutrition, Diabetes, Biology, Culture, Immune system, Mental health, Metabolism, World hunger

Healthy Living

In just the past few years, understanding of the microbiome has transformed how we perceive diet and nutrition, and is already altering how we take care of ourselves. Weizmann Institute scientists from a range of disciplines – just some of which are immunology, neuroscience, biology, genetics, chemistry, machine learning, mathematics, and computer science – have led the way in microbiome research, regularly producing headline-making discoveries. Several of these researchers are also medical doctors, and their experience in working with patients helps move therapies more quickly from the lab to you.

But what is the microbiome? It’s the mighty army of microbes – bacteria, fungi, even viruses – that live in the gut. A thriving, diverse gut microbiota population is essential to our health in myriad ways, and plays a role in everything from weight to anxiety to diabetes, with more impacts being discovered all the time. In fact, it’s so important to protecting our health and well-being that it’s often called the second immune system.

Weizmann’s creative, innovative scientists are learning how to harness the microbiome for a healthier, happier world. Here is just some of their current research:

  • Personalized nutrition. What if ice cream was good for you?

    Or if not exactly healthy, not unhealthy, either. Or it might be healthy for your friend but not you. This is just some of the surprising information revealed by Profs. Eran Elinav and Eran Segal’s research on nutrition and gut microbiota.

    Blood sugar (glucose) levels are linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic disorders, all of which take a tremendous toll on both the individual and society in general. Alarmed by the ever-increasing global spread of these conditions, Profs. Elinav and Segal created the Personalized Nutrition Project, which includes developing metabolic profiles of volunteers in order to understand the gut microbiota’s role in the development of metabolic diseases.

    One of their surprising findings was that people respond to food in radically different ways. For example, some had normal blood sugar levels after eating ice cream, but not, say, brown rice or tomatoes. Some had high blood sugar after eating factory-produced white bread, while others did after eating whole-grain, artisanal bread.

    What caused these remarkable differences? The microbiome.

    The scientists were able to create algorithms that predicted the response of each participant’s microbiota to a wide variety of foods and fashioned personalized, health-boosting diets for them. Their method – further developed with such prestigious partners as the Mayo Clinic and Johnson & Johnson – was recently released to the public as Day Two.

    Family Dinner

  • Diet foods are not. In another discovery that made global headlines, Profs. Elinav and Segal showed that artificial sweeteners, promoted for decades as weight loss aids, could actually lead to glucose intolerance and metabolic disease by altering the gut microbiota. It is not a coincidence that obesity and diabetes rates began soaring as more and more people consumed increasing amounts of highly processed, low- and fat-free food and drink products. 

  • Nature vs. nurture in the gut. In an important new finding, Profs. Elinav and Segal have revealed that lifestyle, not genes, plays the greatest role in determining our microbiome. This overturns the prevailing “nature” theory and is good news, as it means that we have control over our gut microbiome and can “nurture” it to optimal health.

  • Watch the circadian clock. Our internal “body clocks” operate on a 24-hour day-night circadian period – and, as Dr. Gad Asher found, disruption to this delicate system can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver. This work is so important that the journal Cell called one of his findings the “missing link” between the body’s circadian clock and metabolism. Dr. Asher’s discoveries indicate that new types of drugs could be developed to modulate, even repair, the body’s biological clock in cases ranging from chronic sleep problems to jet lag to obesity and other metabolic diseases.

    Furthermore, Profs. Elinav and Segal, suspecting that our biological clocks work in tandem with our gut microbiota, proved that disrupted wake-sleep patterns do indeed change the microbiome, thereby increasing risk of glucose intolerance and obesity. 

  • Metabolism on the brain. Prof. Alon Chen, who studies stress disorders and their impacts on our health, has shown that flawed stress regulation and chronic activation of the stress response are linked to anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, metabolic syndrome, and the like.

    He also found that changing the action of a single gene in the brain led to two significant impacts in mice: their anxiety-related behavior increased, and they began to develop symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes – including dramatic changes in the metabolism of fats and sugars.

  • Powering up plants for health. Prof. Asaph Aharoni created a way to analyze the metabolome – the detailed metabolic profile – of plants and found “pathways” that can be altered – for example, boosted or blocked – to produce hardier, better-tasting, more nutritious crops. His studies of vitamins, flavonoids, and other antioxidants enabled him to create nutrient-rich purple potatoes, which confer significant health benefits. His methods can bring better health to people worldwide – whether in lands of plenty or those where hunger and malnutrition are rampant – simply by altering the metabolome of food plants.

Together, these scientists and their colleagues comprise a powerful interdisciplinary team with tremendous experience and creativity, collaborating to identify and address the risk factors for metabolic diseases and pioneering new treatments … and perhaps even cures. 

Personalized nutrition is personalized medicine – for the benefit of you.