Podcast: Gut Punch – Marketing Microbiome Hype

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Michael Joyce is a writer-producer with HealthNewsReview.org and tweets as @mlmjoyce

In poop we trust?

It appears so.

At least judging from a glut of highly clickable news stories telling us that the trillions of microbes that live in our gut (and on our skin) are important determinants of health. We’re told they can cure disease, change our mood, improve athletic performance, and even be modified by our diets in such a way that it puts us in control of balancing levels of “good and bad” bacteria.

Problem is, none of this is true. At least not yet. So how did we get to this misinformed place where belief in the microbiome as a panacea trumps the reality that this field — though fascinating — is still in its infancy?

That’s what this podcast aims to answer.

Over the past several years we’ve run across quite a number of stories and news releases that contribute to microbiome hype.

Then there are stories that dig deeper. Like this one by Andrew Holtz, the journalist you hear in the podcast. It’s a fascinating tale of athlete’s poop, a startup ‘company,’ and conflicts of interest.

Another voice you’ll hear is that of Ranit Mishori, MD, a former TV journalist who remains fascinated by the role of the media in health care. She recently wrote a systematic analysis of the content of the Dr. Oz talk show that’s one of our most popular posts of the year. 

A great resource for following the hype (or, “microbiomania” as he calls it) is this blog by Jonathan Eisen, PhD, a biologist at UC-Davis who researches the evolution and function of the microbiome.

To learn more about fecal transplants (aka. Fecal Microbiota Transplantation, or FMT), C. difficile, and other areas of research, the University of Minnesota Microbiota Therapeutics Program is a good starting point.

Finally, if you enjoyed this podcast, there’s a related podcast touching on the hype and the promise of precision medicine.

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cleonice andrade holanda

April 27, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Hi! I loved the podcast! I wonder…and what about the bacteria used in the dairy products? It really has the power to change the gut microbiome?