Voeding en Darmgezondheid

Het darm microbioom is de unieke samenstelling van de micro-organismen in de darmen van ieder individu. Het heeft een belangrijke rol in de vertering van ons voedsel. Daarnaast, beïnvloed de samenstelling van het darm microbioom metabole processen in het lichaam en daarmee ook het ontstaan en verloop van chronische aandoeningen. De onderliggende mechanismen en de exacte rol die voeding hierin speelt is nog onduidelijk, daarom financiert het JPI HDHL meerdere projecten op dit onderwerp.

Onderzoek naar darmbacteriën

De bacteriën in onze darmen zijn belangrijker voor onze gezondheid dan eerst werd gedacht. Het JPI HDHL financiert verschillende projecten die onderzoek doen naar het darmmicrobioom. Onderzoekers proberen te ontrafelen hoe het ontstaan van ziekten samenhangt met de darmbacteriën, en hoe dit van persoon tot persoon verschilt. Dit kan leiden tot betere behandelingen en preventie en vooral ook een persoonlijke aanpak. Het programmateam van ZonMw bezoekt de Nederlandse onderzoekgroepen die betrokken zijn bij deze internationale projecten. De onderzoekers zijn ook allemaal betrokken bij het internationale kennisplatform over het darm microbioom.

De onderzoeksprojecten

The ZonMw team was given a tour of TNO’s laboratory, where enormous progress has been made with sample analyses in recent years. The organisation can now determine the genetic composition of 100,000 samples in a single day. This holds out enormous potential, but the sheer volume of data also makes the analyses increasingly elaborate. In both projects, TNO is to analyse samples provided by international partners. In the case of EarlyFOOD, these come from cohorts of European mothers and their babies. The MeaTic samples are from an intervention study being conducted in Italy, in which test subjects eat a lot of red and processed meat.

The international partners in this study are collecting clinical information from mothers and their children to investigate whether maternal obesity affects a child’s brain development (via the development of their gut microbiome). Radboud UMC is responsible for the data analysis. The international consortium has already shared some pilot data, so the team in Nijmegen is now investigating whether there are markers in children’s microbiomes that are predictive of brain development. To find out more, watch this vlog by a young GUTMOM researcher. The project also has its own website.

The TransMic project is a collaboration between Radboud UMC and researchers in Moshi, Tanzania. When we visited the Dutch team, they informed us that more than 300 samples have already been collected from residents of Tanzanian urban and rural districts. And many have now been analysed, revealing evidence that the transition from a rural diet to a more urban, “Western” one increases the incidence of inflammatory responses. These play an important role in the development of chronic medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The researchers also held a conference presenting the results, to be held in Moshi on 8 and 9 October 2020. You can read an interview with the project leader here.


On our visit to the MICRODIET project, we were given a tour that included the consulting rooms where subjects participating in the study are examined. These patients keep track of what they eat and drink, complete food questionnaires and receive feedback from a dietician. Faecal samples are also collected, to analyse their microbiomes. At Amsterdam UMC, 60 overweight patients are following one of the diets developed for this study. More participants will be sought in the coming months. They follow an either high-protein or low-protein diet for three months. The consortium is curious to know whether proteins from these diets are broken down differently in the intestines of overweight patients from different ethnic backgrounds.

Internationaal kennisplatform

The aim of this platform is to map the interaction between diet, the microbiome and health. JPI HDHL has funded several research projects on that topic and the platform straddles them all as a means to encourage the exchange of data. During our project visit, the researchers explained why it is important to think carefully about how to compare data from different studies and countries. If the information collected is properly comparable, one can draw more definite conclusions about the relationship between diet, the microbiome and health. Challenges the researchers have encountered include the fact that people do not eat the same foods all year round (strawberries in the summer, for example, and kale in the winter). Also, people in different countries eat at different times of day. There are big differences in the types of bacteria found in people’s guts, too, with less diversity in those who are obese.