Jens Walter, PhD

Associate Professor, Campus Alberta Innovation Program Chair for Nutrition, Microbes, and Gastrointestinal Health
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

image of Dr. Jens Walter
Abstract: Humans have evolved with dense microbial populations that colonize their gastrointestinal tract and are integral to our biology, for example through the provision of signals that aid the development of the immune system. Increasing evidence indicates that modern lifestyle, and specifically a western diet, has led both to a substantial depletion of the human gut microbiome, as well as differences in the bacterial metabolism. Low-fiber diets provide insufficient nutrients for the gut microbes, leading not only to the loss of species reliant on these substrates but also to a reduction in the production of fermentation end-products with important physiological and immunological functions. In other words, by shifting to a diet that is fundamentally different to the diet under which the human-microbiome interrelationship evolved, we might have disrupted this symbiosis, reducing or removing the evolutionary-routed benefits provided by the microbes. The notion that this process is implicated in the rampant increase of chronic diseases provides a strong incentive to consider attempts to conserve and potentially restore the gut microbiome.