In an effort to uncover the connections between our lifestyles, diets, and health, researchers leading the American Gut Project — the world’s largest crowd-funded science experiment — are working to identify the unique microbial patterns of as many Americans as possible. They’re then using the data to get a sense of our combined microbial community and its connections to common health issues.
According to cofounder and lead scientist Rob Knight, PhD, a professor of pediatrics, computer science, and engineering at the University of California at San Diego, the gut and its microbes — including trillions of bacteria — may be as important to who we are as our brains.
“Recent studies have linked the microbiome to a wide range of diseases, including obesity, atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis in humans, and all sorts of other conditions in mouse models, including asthma, autism, and multiple sclerosis,” he says. “Maintaining gut microbial health may be essential to the health of the rest of our bodies.”
While this test may not be for the squeamish, any citizen-scientist can participate and have his or her gut microflora inventoried for a $99 donation at www.humanfoodproject.com/americangut. (Update: this project has ended. Results are in.)
For more on how your microbiome can make or break your health, see “Your Microbiome: The Ecosystem Inside.”