Where did it go?
I hope 2015 treated you all well, and that 2016 brings great health and prosperity to everyone. I've tried to keep the blog light and informative and I've really enjoyed interacting with all of the commenters. We talked about some great stuff, looking back through the posts, and I can kind of see my thinking has changed quite a bit from 2014.
I'm now more than half-way through my master's courses in biotechnology, classes start back up in February. I'm hoping to maintain my 4.0 grade point average, and if all goes as planned, I'll be done in November 2016.
Gut Microbiome - I have been quite disappointed that the research and discussion still revolves around identifying the bacteria responsible for different diseases and less emphasis is placed on the diet. I think it is becoming apparent to all that each person is unique and carries a unique set of gut microbes. Fecal transplants get little mention anymore, despite the great promise shown. For each of us, I think all we can do is experiment with the foods we eat and try to find a great mixture of fruits, veggies, fungi, nuts, seeds, grains, etc... foods that keeps our digestive system working well. I have not lost my passion for using potato starch and inulin as a supplement when fiber intake is low, but they should not be a sole source of fiber. I keep trying to expand my repertoire of fibrous foods as I come across new sources (my latest is spelt).
Gut Testing - The various companies offering gut tests have been the biggest let-down of 2015 for me. I've spent a lot of time in the black box of bioinformatics this year, and I've looked at hundreds of gut reports. I'm afraid there are simply too many variables both in the tests themselves and in the individuality of the guts to use these tests for anything more than amusement value. Now I see that some of these companies are even offering health predictions based on your sample. I stand firmly that a gut test generated using 16s rRNA profiling is in no way useful as a diagnostic tool. For one thing, I do not trust any of the results or percentages generated by 16s rRNA sampling, and for another, the gut biome changes so rapidly after a single meal that a snap-shot of your flora based on a simple swab of poo is meaningless in the grand scheme of gut health. While it is fun to see the species/genera named in a report, they are not worth the paper they are printed on in terms of diagnostic potential. Culture-based sampling is more reliable, but cannot be used to identify an entire microbiome, only certain species. If I suspected a pathogen, I would have a real doctor use a culture-based platform to discover if it exists. Additionally, the bacteria in your gut is only half the story. The fungal/yeast inhabitants are quite likely just as responsible for maintaining good gut (and overall) health as the bacteria identified through standard gut tests.
Dieting Trends - I think the tide has shifted away from low carb diets and more towards vegetables and grains. At present, "Paleo" just seems to be a keyword to direct internet searches and sell diet books. How anyone ever thought that crispy bacon strips emulate ancestral eating is beyond me. Potatoes are "bags of sugar" and all grains are evil. The reality is, almost any whole plant food is healthy for us. Refined grains are not whole foods. We do not require pounds of meat per day. In my mind's eye, the biggest dangers in eating are the over-processed, refined foods we choose for convenience. In that respect, "paleo" steered us away from the worst offenders, but never really taught us to eat a human-appropriate diet. I'm hoping that the diet fads of 2016 and beyond all include plenty of whole grains, beans, potatoes, and heavy-hitter fibers.
The Future of Vegetable Pharm - For 2016, I'm going to be talking a lot more about potatoes and the potato hack. Since the beginning, more visitors have found this blog searching for "potato diet" than any other search terms. It's fun to talk about, and I think it's a worthwhile topic. As we discuss through the year, I'll try to capture everything and present it as an ebook later on. Throughout the year, feel free to comment as you like on older posts if you find any new and exciting research on RS, fiber and gut health. Blog post frequency will depend mostly on how much free time I have between classes, gardening, raising bees and chickens, and fishing.
To the future!