Overselling the microbiome award of the week: Science News on "Bacteria that Trigger Crohn’s"

Well, this is just a terrible, terrible, very misleading headline: Bacteria that trigger Crohn’s disease identified | Science News.  The headline relates to a story by Ashley Yeager on a new paper in Cell Host and Microbe.  The paper is “The Treatment-Naive Microbiome in New-Onset Crohn’s Disease” and it seems very interesting on first glance and very very very careful in the wording about what they have shown in the paper.  And all that care is wasted with news headlines like this.  The paper does not identify any bacteria that “trigger” Crohn’s.  They do identify microbial signatures with various aspects of Crohn’s and find some very interesting things.  But no triggering is shown.  Nor claimed.  And then Science News misleads people into thinking this article will be about what triggers Crohn’s.  Lame.  Annoying.  And a winner of the Overselling the Microbiome Award of the week.

Overselling the microbiome award: Swiss National Science Foundation on smoking, weight gain and bacteria

Well, I guess I should thank Mark Martin for pointing me to this story: Weight gain in ex-smokers likely caused by changes in intestinal bacteria, not increased appetite | National Post.  It – and the Press Release it seems to be based on Why smokers gain weight when they quit smoking are a horrendous example of “Overselling the microbiome”. (The paper connected to the press release is in PLOS One and seems to not have oversold the findings in the same way).  I am so sick of these types of stories and PRs I am not going to go into this in much detail but here are some comments

National Post:

  • The title alone shows how badly they were misled by the authors: there is NO evidence that changes in bacteria caused anything here.
  • “Have you noticed that you gain weight every time you quit smoking?” … “you may be surprised to learn that it has little to do with your calorie intake.”  “Researchers attributed the weight gains to changes in the bacterial diversity of the intestine.”
  • Thanks “researchers” for misleading everyone about your study.

PR:

  • “Most smokers put on a couple of kilos when they quit smoking. This is not due to an increased calorie intake, but to a change in the composition of the intestinal flora after quitting smoking”
  • “attribute the cause to a changed composition of the bacterial diversity in the intestine.”

I can’t even go on.  The issue is simple.  The researchers did not show that the bacteria caused ANYTHING.  They just showed that the bacteria found in people after quitting smoking were different than before quitting.  And they also showed that these people had some other changes in their systems after quitting – like weight gain.  Does this mean the bacteria caused anything.  NOOOOOO. I am just going to give the Swiss National Science Foundation my coveted “Overselling the microbiome award” for a misleading and inaccurate and potentially dangerous press release.

Overselling the microbiome award: VIB press release saying "Intestinal flora determines health of obese people"

Some really cool new papers are out on the human microbiome today.  But alas that is not what I am here to talk about.  I am here, once again, to complain about overselling the microbome.  There is a headline from a press release from one of the institutes involved in one of the new studies that really irks me: “Intestinal flora determines health of obese people“.  As far as I can tell from reading the paper under discussion in this PR, nothing showed that the flora “determined” the health of obese people.  Yes, the flora had really interesting correlations with health status.  But “determines health” implies that the flora were the causal component of the health of obese people.  And as far as I can tell this was not shown.  What was shown was that the microbial communities – and some metrics of those communities like richness – can help predict risk of individuals for various health related ailments.

Now, mind you, the person discussed in this PR Jeroen Raes is completely brilliant and one of my favorite people in science in many ways.  And also it is important to point out that the paper does not make these claims.  The paper says things like

Our classifications based on variation in the gut microbiome identify subsets of individuals in the general white adult population who may be at increased risk of progressing to adiposity-associated co-morbidities

Even the title:

Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers

So – the reviewers and the authors seemed to have been relatively cautious in the text of the paper.  And the paper is fascinating and filled with important details.  But the headline in this press release has the potential to do damage to the whole field – especially as it gets taken up by the press.  And that is a shame.  The human microbiome is clearly important.  Why oversell it with BS like this?

Thus I hereby award an “Overselling the microbiome award” to the VIB Institute for their press release.

From the VIB Home Page

UPDATE 8/29 7:30 AM.  See comments.  Author Jeroen Raes gets PR fixed …

UPDATE 8/29 9:50 AM. Some links of interest

No need to oversell the human microbiome with studies like these …

I know I complain all the time about news stories and people “overselling the microbiome“.  Mind you, I believe microbial communities are likely to be found to have very very important roles in the biology of the plants and animals and other organisms on which they live, but I worry about overhyping the possibilities.  But thankfully, there are some good researchers at work out there documenting just what the microbiome can and does do.  And the results continue to be promising.

Here is the one that caught my eye most recently: BBC News – ‘Weight loss gut bacterium’ found about this PNAS paper.  While the study is in mice and it is what one could call “limited” in some ways, it is really fascinating and has much promise.  Basically, they isolated a new bacterium (with the awkward name of Akkermansia muciniphila, and did a series of experiments in mice looking at the role this bacterium can play in many mouse gut properties.  But most interesting, treatment of mice with this bacterium (and only when the bacterium was alive) led to a reduction in high fat induced metabolic disorders and obesity.  I am still re-reading the paper but the result seems solid.  And exciting.

So – there is no need to oversell the microbiome when the results coming in sell themselves …

UPDATE 30 minutes after posting

Of course, I should have checked to see if Ed Yong wrote anything about this.  And he did: The Mucus-Lover that Stops Mice from Getting Fat.  Read his post.  It is excellent.  With ALL sorts of links and background and other detail.

Overselling the microbiome: University Bern press release uses slight of hand to make mouse study seem to be about people

Interesting new paper came out recently on “Sex Differences in the Gut Microbiome Drive Hormone-Dependent Regulation of Autoimmunity.”  It is alas in Science so it is not available openly.

Anyway there are some news stories about the article where you can get the gist of it.  Best one is probably the blog post by Christine Gorman: Transplanted Bacteria Turn Up Testosterone to Protect Mice against Diabetes.  The story is pretty interesting.

For those who do not know I have been a bit obsessed about the connection between diabetes and the microbiome for a while.  See my Ted talk for example where I discuss my own personal connection to this issue.

http://embed.ted.com/talks/jonathan_eisen_meet_your_microbes.html

But the science is not what I want to talk about here.  What I want to talk about is how science press releases can just be awful.  The one for this paper is like some sort of con artist’s scheme.  Here it is on Science Daily: Good bacteria in the intestine prevent diabetes, study suggests.  First, they lure you in with a headline that, well, fails to mention that the study was in mice.  And then they keep trying to lure you with some lines about humans and their microbes.  In fact, the first two and half paragraphs I think are pretty deceptive.

All humans have enormous numbers of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the lower intestine. In fact our bodies contain about ten times more bacteria than the number of our own cells and these tiny passengers are extremely important for our health. They help us digest our food and provide us with energy and vitamins. These ‘friendly’ commensal bacteria in the intestine help to stop the ‘bad guys’ such as Salmonella that cause infections, taking hold. Even the biochemical reactions that build up and maintain our bodies come from our intestinal bacteria as well as our own cells.  

Pretty important that we get along with these little bacterial friends… definitely. But as in all beautiful relationships, things can sometimes turn sour. If the bacteria in the intestine become unbalanced, inflammation and damage can occur at many different locations in the body. The best known of these is the intestine itself: the wrong intestinal bacteria can trigger Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The liver also becomes damaged when intestinal bacteria are unbalanced. 

Research groups led by Professor Jayne Danska at the Sick Children’s Hospital of the University of Toronto and Professor Andrew Macpherson in the Clinic for Visceral Surgery and Medicine at the Inselspital and the University of Bern have now shown that the influence of the intestinal bacteria extends even deeper inside the body to influence the likelihood of getting diabetes. In children and young people, diabetes is caused by the immune cells of the body damaging the special cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin.

Yup – lots and lots of stuff about people.  Which is fine.  I like people.  But the thing is. The paper is about mice.  So lines like “have now shown that the influence of the intestinal bacteria extends even deeper inside the body to influence the likelihood of getting diabetes” are kind of misleading because so far there has been no mention of mice and that line is they only true for mice, not people.  And then they wrap up this section with another line about people, clearly trying to imply that the “have now shown …” part is relevant to people.

And then, finally, they turn to mice.

By chance, 30 years ago, before the development of genetic engineering techniques, Japanese investigators noticed that a strain of NOD laboratory mice tended to get diabetes. These mice (also by chance) have many of the same genes that make some humans susceptible to the disease. With the help of the special facilities of the University of Bern and in Canada, these teams have been able to show that the intestinal bacteria, especially in male mice, can produce biochemicals and hormones that stop diabetes developing.

And then they go back to people.

Diabetes in young people is becoming more and more frequent, and doctors even talk about a diabetes epidemic. This increase in diabetic disease has happened over the last 40 years as our homes and environment have become cleaner and more hygienic. At the moment, once a child has diabetes, he or she requires life-long treatment. 

“We hope that our new understanding of how intestinal bacteria may protect susceptible children from developing diabetes, will allow us to start to develop new treatments to stop children getting the disease,” says Andrew Macpherson of the University Bern.

Wow.  So in a press release about a paper that is about mice, there are three sentences about mice and the rest are about people.  The thing is, in case you don’t know – mice are not the same as people.  Just saying.  And for trying to overplay the connection of their work to humans, I am giving the writer’s of this press release my coveted Overselling the Microbiome Award.

Past posts about this award include:

Award: Ridiculous, absurd, offensive overselling of the microbiome from Chalmers & Gothenburg

Wow.  This is painful.  There is a press release that came out a few days ago: Changes in the gut bacteria protect against stroke.  In it they report on a new paper showing some interesting results comparing the metagenomes of gut microbiota in stroke patients vs healthy patients.  They found some interesting differences.  And they then made absurd, dangerous, self-serving claims that completely confuse the issue of correlation vs. causation.

Basically, they found carotenoid production genes to be more abundant in the people who were healthy.  And they then appear to have concluded that production of carotenoids by bacteria in the gut protects from strokes.  Completely ridiculous.  No evidence whatsoever is presented that such production of carotenoids by gut microbes does anything of the kind.   Compare the semi careful wording in the paper

Our finding of enriched levels of phytoene dehydrogenase in the metagenomes of healthy controls and its association with elevated levels of β-carotene in the serum may indicate that the possible production of this anti-oxidant by the gut microbiota may have a positive health benefit

To the drivel in the release

Our results indicate that long-term exposure to carotenoids, through production by the bacteria in the digestive system, has important health benefits. These results should make it possible to develop new probiotics. We think that the bacterial species in the probiotics would establish themselves as a permanent culture in the gut and have a long-term effect

As a bonus, they promote a new company of their Metabogen in the press release.   Here’s a suggestion.  Do not invest in this company and do not believe anything they do (unless they retract the claims in the PR).  The people involved in this press release, which also are associated with this company, are overselling their own work, do not seem to understand the difference between correlation and causation, and are making dangerous claims about health benefits.

And thus I am awarding them my coveted “Overselling the microbiome award.”  Past awards include:

UPDATE 1: 7:30 PM 12/11/12

Some of the other parts of the press release that are bad:

  • The title: “Changes in the gut bacteria protect against stroke.” Are you kidding me?  Ridiculous claim with no evidence.
  • Another line: “Jens Nielsen, Professor of Systems Biology at Chalmers, says that it may be preferable to take probiotics instead – for example dietary supplements containing types of bacteria that produce carotenoids.”  So now they have jumped from a correlation in what microbes are present to treating people with probiotics.  Just what priobiotics are they going to use? And is there any evidence that they help?

Overselling the microbiome award of the month: Integrative medical group of Irvine

Wow.  Just discovered this site: Fecal Transplantation | Integrative Medical Group of Irvine.  Not sure how long it has been out there.  But this is one of the more aggressive and perhaps egregious overselling of the power of the human microbiome that I have seen. They are promoting fecal transplants at their clinic as a way to cure a diverse array of ailments from ulcerative colitis to obesity and imply they can be used for cardiovascular health, emotional status, bone health, and more.  My “favorite” part:

As our understanding of the enormous importance of bowel micro-biota (bacteria) grows, the indications for fecal transplant will expand greatly and public acceptance will follow. But there is no reason for you to wait. Dr. Lee, our naturopathic doctor, is one of only a tiny handful of specialists certified in the use of fecal transplant. She can expertly manage your case.

Yes that is right.  We (the royal We of course) are on the verge of showing that the microbiota does EVERYTHING and therefore, if anything ails you, just wash your troubles away with some shit from a relative.  There is no reason to wait.  Come in to our clinic now.

And for the misleading nature of this site, I am giving this Integrative Medical Group of Irvine my coveted “Overselling the microbiome award.”  Previous winners and discussions of this issue are listed below:

Overselling the microbiome award: MedicalDaily on Effects of Sugary Drink

There is a news article of possible interest in Medical Daily: Sugary Drinks Increase Bad Bacteria in Gut, Risk of Diabetes : Consumer News  This article reports on a paper in Obesity Reviews.  Alas the paper is not freely available. But the PhD thesis from one of the authors is.  The thesis is fascinating – I have read much of it now and skimmed other parts and it has the article as Chapter 2.  There are a few differences in the abstract – for example the Obesity Reviews paper does not start off with “The saying “you are what you eat” is no longer pure folklore but is scientifically substantiated by recognition of host-microbe interactions promoting digestion, absorption and metabolism.” which is in the thesis chapter.  But my guess is the published article is very similar to the thesis chapter.

The news article really goes overboard in hyping what appears to be little more than a correlation.  Among the issues I have:

  • Title:  Sugary Drinks Increase Bad Bacteria in Gut, Risk of Diabetes
    • Whew.  It is a doozy.  No evidence that the bacteria found are “bad” as far as I can tell.  No evidence that sugary drinks specifically cause the increase.  The paper is a review paper outlining a lot of prior work and some theories hypothesizing connections between fructose and sweeteners and the microbiome and obesity.  But I don’t see any evidence of specific increases in bad bacteria in the gut.
  • Byline: Sugary drinks help bad microbes grow in the human gut. This increase leads to many health complications like obesity and metabolic syndrome, raising risk of diseases associated with metabolic syndrome like diabetes.
    • Wow.  Even worse than the title.  Sugary drinks help the bad microbes grow.  And this leads to many health complications.  No evidence is presented for this.

In this case it is certainly much better to go to the source than to read the news story since the source (the PhD thesis and presumably the review paper) is quite thorough and interesting.  It has some fascinating ideas about sugar and sugar substitutes and their potential effects.

Mind you, I think microbes play a role in obesity too.  But the simple “sugary drinks CAUSE growth of bad bacteria which CAUSES health problems” well, if only it were so.  So for their overselling the effects of sugar and the microbiome without evidence I am giving the Medical Daily a highly coveted “overselling the microbiome award“.

The microbiome in the news: risk of overselling but not always bad coverage

Well, in the space of about five or so years we have gone from everyone ignoring the “cloud” of microbes that live in and on various plants and animals (the so called microbiomes of these species) to everyone now basically implying that the microbiomes do EVERYTHING.  Over the last few years I started to get stressed about this and started giving out “Overselling the microbiome” awards here.  Some previous posts on this topic include:

That was five or so posts over a few years.  But i certainly have seen more cases of overhyping and it does seem to be getting worse. One of the key aspects of overhyping is the continuous danger of correlation vs. causation.  Microbial communities can be very very complex ecosystems.  What many people/researchers do is the following:
  1. identify a few groups of hosts (e.g., healthy vs. disease) 
  2. collect samples and characterize the microbial communities in the samples
  3. carry out some clustering/correlation analysis to look for features of the microbial community that are correlated with the host classes (e.g., healthy vs disease)
And given the massive number of variables in the microbial communities once can almost always find some feature that is highly correlated – or even perfectly correlated – to the host classes.  The problem with this is that you expect many such correlations by chance.  So how do you know when you have found one that is not spurious?  That is, not a false positive?  In reality, you can’t know this without follow up studies.  In addition, and more important – suppose you found a consistent correlation between some microbial feature and the host phenotype/disease state/diet/etc?  What would that mean?  Well, one thing one CANNOT conclude is that the differences in the microbes CAUSED the host phenotypic differences.  All you know is that there is a correlation.  Perhaps the host phenotypic differences themselves drove changes in the microbes and were caused by something else.  Or perhaps some other issue (e.g., inflammation) caused both a change in the microbes and a change in the host.
So – please – if you are doing a microbiome study be careful about making conclusions based on correlations.  And if you are reading about microbiome studies – be careful about believing claims made by the authors/reporters.

So – I worry about these things OK?  And my gut (pun intended) says there is a lot of this going on.  So I decided to check out recent news on the topic of the human microbiome.  And of course I went to Google News and searched for “microbiome”.  And I decided to look in more detail at a few of these story lines including

  • Microbe connection to colorectal cancer
  • Gut bacteria and metabolic syndrome
  • A story in Food Consumer on diet and aging

Story 1: Gut microbes and colorectal cancer

Some studies of course do an OK job of trying to test whether observations are correlations or have some causative connection.  One seemingly well done case from the scientific publication point of view involves a recent paper on gut microbes and colon cancer: Gut Microbes Implicated in the Development of Colorectal Cancer.  Alas it is not an open access paper so what most people out there have to go on is the press coverage of the work.  The paper itself is quite interesting and the authors do a pretty good job of discussing how they went about testing the roles of specific microbes and even specific genes in the etiology of disease in a mouse model.  
The press coverage has not been so clear alas.  Some examples of the press coverage are below:
In many of the stories the key distinction between correlation vs. causation is nowhere to be found.  Of course, I don’t always expect the press to cover such distinctions, but the more this is discussed in blogs, press stories the better off we all will be.  
Story 2: Gut microbes and pre-diabetes risk
Consider also recent stories on the microbiome and “pre-diabetes” risk.  
In the press release from the authors, a clear distinction is made between cause and effect: “We can’t infer cause and effect, but it’s an important step forward that we’re starting to identify bacteria that are correlated with clinical parameters …”. And in the paper such distinctions are also pretty clear: Analysis of the Gut Microbiota in the Old Order Amish and Its Relation to the Metabolic Syndrome.  Note – this paper was in PLoS One so is freely and openly available to all to read. Some quotes include “although the cross-sectional nature of this study makes it difficult to infer cause and effect with these data alone
And much of the press coverage recapitulates these notes of caution – probably because they copied a lot of material from the PR.  See for example
So – in these two cases the papers and PRs do an OK job of discussing correlation vs. causation and some of the press coverage does too.  Not perfect.  But not so bad. (I note – I originally flagged these cases as possible recipients of “Overselling the microbiome” awards but upon further examination discovered that the authors/PR people did an OK job ..

Story 3: Food consumer article on aging

Alas – if we look at how some others are making use of the microbiome studies that are coming out we see many more problems.  For example consider this site: One of the Best Foods You Can Eat to Defy Aging from some group called FoodConsumer.Org.  They discuss the human microbiome project and other studies of the microbiome, list many of the things the microbiome has been shown to do in humans and then, well, go overboard by telling how to ensure a healthy gut
  • “A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented or cultured foods is the easiest way to ensure optimal gut flora.”
  • “Just make sure to steer clear of pasteurized versions, as pasteurization will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. For example, most of the “probiotic” yogurts you find in every grocery store these days are NOT recommended. Since they’re pasteurized, they will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurized milk products instead.”
No evidence I know of supports these latter claims.  It is for this reason that I have previously given the person behind this site an  “Overselling the microbiome award“.  But alas this is not the only place with some bad science on microbiomes.  Stay tuned – I still feel like I will be giving out many other awards in the near future …

UPDATE 1: 7 AM 8/20

Ewen Callaway from Nature News asks on Twitter

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js I responded

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Some more details on Ewen’s article – which I did find to be good, just unclear on the human side of things.  Here is some of the discussion of human colon cancer.  I have flagged sections that I wish had made more clear than in humans there is no evidence that the colibactin producing bacteria cause cancer.

Many humans also harbour bacteria that produce colibactin. The researchers found them in the stools of 20% of 24 healthy people, 40% of 35 people with inflammatory bowel disease and 66% of 21 people with colorectal cancer. But how the colibactin-producing bacteria lead to cancer isn’t clear, Jobin says

He hypothesizes that gut inflammation causes colibactin-producing strains to bloom while simultaneously weakening epithelial cells that line the gut, making them more susceptible to DNA damage. If this happens for long enough, a cell will turn cancerous, Jobin suggests.

Working out these steps in the human gut could help to prevent cancer, he adds. Doctors could use DNA sequencing to survey their patients’ guts for microbes producing genes that cause cancer, and then eliminate them with antibiotics. Similarly, probiotics could displace cancer promoting bacteria.

Pollard says that people already do this. Some fruits and vegetables seem to stave off cancer, whereas red meat and other foods are associated with higher cancer risks. Perhaps, Pollard says, foods prevent and promote cancer by shaping the microbiome. 

In this ending section on humans it is not made clear that the new study does not in any way show that colibactin producing bacteria cause cancer in humans.  Furthermore, it would have been good to add some serious caveats to the discussion of probiotics and displacement of cancer promoting bacteria.  Overall, a decent news story but it went a bit overboard on the “bacteria cause cancer in humans” angle without making clear that this was not shown.

UPDATE 2: Example of not so good coverage of a microbiome correlation issue

Here is an example of a recent news coverage that really does a bad job of dealing with the issue of cause vs. effect.  This relates to a recent study from the Murdoch Children’s Hospital about bacteria and eczema.  Examples of news stories on the topic include:

The abstract reads

Background:  Alterations in intestinal microflora have been linked to the development of allergic disease. Recent studies suggest that healthy infant immune development may depend on the establishment of a diverse gut microbiota rather than the presence or absence of specific microbial strains. 

Objectives:  We investigated the relationship between diversity of gut microbiota in the early postnatal period and subsequent development of eczema and atopy in the first year of life. 

Methods:  Fecal samples were collected 1 wk after birth from 98 infants at high risk of allergic disease, who were followed prospectively to age 12 months. Fecal microbial diversity was assessed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) using restriction enzymes Sau96I and AluI, with a greater number of peaks representing greater diversity of bacterial communities. 

Results:  Microbial diversity at day 7 was significantly lower in infants with eczema at age 12 months as compared to infants without eczema (AluI mean number of peaks 13.1 vs. 15.5, p = 0.003, 95% CI for difference in means −3.9, −0.8; Sau96I 14.7 vs. 17.2, p = 0.03, 95% CI −4.9, −0.3). No differences were observed for atopic compared to non-atopic infants, or infants with two allergic parents compared to those with one or no allergic parent. 

Conclusions:  A more diverse intestinal microbiota in the first week of life is associated with a reduced risk of subsequent eczema in infants at increased risk of allergic disease. Interventions that enhance microbial diversity in early life may provide an effective means for the prevention of eczema in high-risk infants.

The key part really is in the conclusion.  What they showed was a correlation – a higher level of microbial diversity (in fecal samples) was correlated with reduced risk of eczema.  No causal connection was shown.  Alas the press coverage and the quotes/words of the authors in the press stories do not reflect any level of caution in the presentation.

For example in the Study shows bacteria could prevent eczema story from PM radio examples of troubling sections (with some comments by me in underlined words include):

  • Research by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute shows that infants with low bacteria levels are more susceptible to eczema and asthma” (no susceptibility differences were detected .. all that was shown was that kids with eczema had different bacteria).
  • “STEPHANIE SMAIL: Associate Professor Tang says the study shows introducing good bacteria into a child’s diet could prevent eczema from developing. But she also says exposing children to common germs would help alleviate the problem” (well, excessive cleanliness is probably a bad thing in many cases … but I know of no evidence that exposure to germs helps protect from eczema – and certainly this was not in this new study)

Or consider Early exposure to bacteria could prevent eczema.

  • This suggests that altering the mix and amount of bacteria in our guts in early life could be an effective approach to the prevention of eczema, especially for those with an increased risk of developing allergic disease.” (no evidence has been presented that the microbes even cause the eczema – so it is way to early to speculate that changing the microbes could prevent anything).

The study done on eczema is quite interesting and potentially suggestive … but the jump from “we observe differences in microbes” to “changing the microbes can probably prevent eczema” is a bit too much of a jump for me.
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Dr. Mercola offers up some serious BS on probiotics and the human #microbiome

Aaarrrg.  Well, I was snooping around google news, search for “archaea” and this came up: foodconsumer.org – How Your Gut Flora Influences Your Health.

The archaea reference was in a quote that this article made of a Science Daily report

The microbes in the human gut belong to three broad domains, defined by their molecular phylogeny: Eukarya, Bacteria, and Achaea.

Wow – this surprised me.  An article at some place called Food Consumer that was mentioning archaea.

But that was pretty much the only decent part.  Things went downhill fast with a link to some total BS on a way to cure every disorder on the planet by focusing on gut microbial health.

The article then pulls a classic trick – referencing some of the new human micro biome work in Nature to make the discussion here seem scientific. But alas it is not.  Consider this doozy of a line

The ideal balance of beneficial to pathogenic bacteria in your gut is about 85 percent good bacteria and 15 percent bad.  Maintaining this ideal ratio is what it’s all about when we’re talking about optimizing your gut health. “

Yes that is right everyone – you want to maintain a ratio where 15% of the bacteria in your gut are pathogenic.  Aaarrggh.

Not surprisingly, when I searched around the web for detail on the person behind this article – some Dr. Mercola – who I have never heard of – I discovered that he is considered by many to be a quack.  No disagreement from me.