The Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has entered into a research partnership with the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Nestlé Health Science to study the effects of diet on gut bacteria. The study is part of a major CCFA effort to develop new treatments targeting the gut microbiome—the "ecosystem" of microbes populating the intestines—linked to the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
Part of CCFA's Microbiome Initiative, the Food and Resulting Microbial Metabolites (FARMM) study aims to understand how different diets, including a vegan diet and a defined formula diet sometimes used in treating IBD, influence the bacteria and bacterial products in the intestine.
In the FARMM study, healthy volunteers will follow a defined "Western" diet, vegan diet or formula diet for two weeks. The researchers will look at how the three diets affect the population of microbes present in the gut, as well as the individual's metabolomic profile. Cutting-edge tools and techniques will be used to identify microbial, metabolomic and immune system "signatures" that may be involved in the development or treatment of IBD.
The findings will be an important first step toward understanding how a formula diet (exclusive enteral nutrition) works to induce remission in patients with Crohn's disease. The study also will provide new information on how antibiotics affect the gut microbiome and the metabolites produced by these organisms.
"We hope this research will advance our understanding of the complex relationship between our diet, the microrganisms that live in our gut, and the small molecules they produce that end up circulating throughout our body," said Gary Wu, M.D., one of the Principal Investigators on the study, the Ferdinand G. Weisbrod Professor in Gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and co-director of the Penn-Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Microbiome Program.
Along with other factors, diet and the gut microbiome may play an important role in the development and progression of IBD. Studies have linked a diet high in total fats and meat to an increased risk for IBD, while high fiber, fruit and vegetable intake are associated with a decreased risk.
Co-Principal Investigator James Lewis, M.D., MSCE, professor of gastroenterology at the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn and director of Penn's Gastroenterology and Hepatology Clinical Research Program, said, "We hope that these discoveries will provide a launch pad for developing novel interventions aimed at manipulating microbial targets with the goal of treating or even preventing IBD without suppressing the immune system."