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Friday, April 19, 2024

UC Davis researchers are first to measure percentage of live microbes in daily diet 

Scientists weigh in on how many microbes we should eat, how many most people are eating in everyday diet


By MONICA MANMADKAR — science@theaggie.org


Nutrients in food and beverages are essential to ensuring that bodies are equipped with the building blocks necessary to stay healthy and fight disease. UC Davis researchers have measured the number of friendly microbes in raw and fermented foods in participants’ everyday diets in a new study to assess how many of the necessary nutrients they are getting. 

For years, researchers have been studying the live microbes that can provide a health benefit when taken in certain amounts and what the daily intake of microbes is for the average person. The researchers at UC Davis noted how people’s diets decades ago contained a much higher level of living microbes than the level they found in most diets today. On the other hand, another set of researchers also suggested that several new diets in the past few decades have contributed to the rise of microbes in our diets.

 Dr. Maria Marco, who is a co-author of the study and a professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, explained what she and her team hoped to discover through their microbe study. 

“We set out to test the hypothesis that exposure to non-harmful, commensal microbes in foods is associated with improved health,” Marco said. “Our rationale is laid out in more detail in the past paper we published in 2020.”

The researchers found that the consumption of live microbes has gradually increased in the United States over the last few decades. However, they also found that only about 50% of U.S. citizens consume foods with a high level of microbes, like fermented foods. 

“One cup of yogurt can contain up to 1 billion good bacteria,” Marco said. “Foods that are not cooked before eating, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can contain over 10 to 100 million microbes per serving.”

The researchers in this study are only setting the stage for the main objective, which is to see if the consumption of live microbes can be positively correlated with health status.

Dr. Colin Hil,l  a professor of microbial food safety in the School of Microbiology at University College Cork, Ireland and a co-author of the study, explained how the group of researchers hopes to further this research in the future. 

In the long term, if we can establish a positive link between the consumption of live microbes and good health, we could try to persuade authorities to include recommendations to consume live microbes in dietary guidelines,” Hill said.


Written by: Monica Manmadkar — science@theaggie.org