Your Microbiome is a Better Predictor of
Long-Term Health Than Your Genes

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Scientific Director, Essential Formulas

Which is a better predictor of your long-term health and your risk of dying your genes or microbiome? This article aims to review two recent studies that address this issue.

The Human Genome Project revealed that humans contain approximately 2,000 genes. Subsequently, results from the Human Microbiome Project showed that around 1,000 different species of bacteria reside in and on humans, which collectively comprise about 3.3 million unique genes. Consequently, the human genome is frequently referred to as our “second genome.”

The enormous predominance of microbial genes compared to the number of our human genes has stimulated research to discover which genome, human or bacterial, has the most significant influence on health and longevity. The results may surprise you.

STUDY #1: Taxonomic Signatures of Long-Term Mortality Risk in Human Gut Microbiota.i

In 1972, the Health Department in Finland began collecting data on thousands of people utilizing surveys and health exams to assess lifestyle factors and the risk for chronic diseases. The surveys and health exams were repeated every five years from 1972 to 2012.

In 2002, the subjects also donated stool samples sequenced 15 years later. Scientists analyzed the microbiome from the stool samples of 35,499 participants and compared it with their human genome/DNA. They also analyzed blood samples from 21,087 participants between the ages of 25 and 74.

This study is now referred to as the FINRISK Study. The quantity and the quality of the data collected, the number of people involved, and the length of time of the study make the FINRISK Study one of the most critical health studies ever conducted. More than 1,100 articles or reports and 65 doctoral dissertations have been published from the FINRISK Study.ii

STUDY #1 RESULTS: Individuals whose microbiome contained more significant numbers of bacteria classified as pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, Klebsiella, Shigella, Proteus, and Citrobacter were 15% more likely to die within the next 15 years. The risk of dying was similar for people living in different geographical regions in Finland and among people with different lifestyles and genetics. Thus, an individual’s microbiome was more accurate than the human genome at predicting their long-term risk of dying.

STUDY #2: The predictive power of the microbiome exceeds that of genome-wide association studies in the discrimination of complex human diseases.iii

This paper is a meta-analysis of 47 different studies that evaluated the predictive capabilities of an individual’s human genome versus their microbiome for 13 common diseases. The assessed diseases include the following: asthma, colon cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

STUDY #2 RESULTS: Overall, the results revealed that an analysis of the structure, function, and diversity of an individual’s microbiome was approximately 20% more accurate at predicting the incidence of the diseases studied than an analysis of the individual’s human genome/DNA. Analysis of the human microbiome was 50% more accurate in predicting colon cancer. Human DNA was only better at predicting type 1 diabetes of the diseases studied.

My Comments & Analysis:
These studies support the hypothesis that maintaining a healthy microbiome is critical for good health, maybe the most vital factor. Yet, there are many things in today’s world that harm or destroy the microbiome, far too many to list here. However, I want to discuss one of the most critical issues that determine the microbiome’s health, which is diversity.

The Importance of a Diverse Microbiome: Throughout nature, the health of ecosystems depends on biodiversity. In coral reefs, the Amazon rainforest, and your gut microbiome, greater diversity results in more excellent health, strength, and resilience. But, what is the meaning of diversity? In various ecosystems, greater diversity means more species of animals, plants, trees, insects, birds, etc. In your gut microbiome, greater diversity means a broader range of different species of probiotic bacteria.

You cannot increase your microbiome diversity by just taking probiotics. The only way to create greater microbiome diversity is by consuming a greater variety of plant-based foods. Different species of bacteria require different kinds of food. The two primary food groups for probiotic bacteria, consisting of thousands of other compounds, are polyphenols and dietary fiber. The richest source of these probiotic-friendly foods are colored vegetables and fruits, followed by grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices, and let’s not forget chocolate.

Postbiotic Metabolites: When probiotic bacteria are provided with a diverse range of polyphenols and dietary fibers, they convert these non-digestible dietary components into postbiotic metabolites. It is becoming increasingly clear that postbiotic metabolites are critical health-regulating compounds for the body. Although they are produced in the colon, they influence every organ system in the body, including the brain and the immune system.

The Malnourished Microbiome: For 99.9% of human evolution, people consumed foods that grew naturally in nature. Unfortunately, most people today consume enormous amounts of canned, packaged, and highly processed foods, which are severely deficient in the types of compounds that probiotic bacteria require to thrive and produce postbiotic metabolites. Scientists estimate that our ancient ancestors consumed from 5 to 10 times more dietary fibers and polyphenols than modern humans. The dramatic decline in the consumption of plant-based foods results in a malnourished microbiome. This, in turn, allows the proliferation of harmful bacteria, which creates a dysfunctional microbiome ecosystem. This often progresses to leaky gut, inflammation, and a wide range of more severe health problems. The disease does begin in the gut.

The Postbiotic Solution: In a healthy microbiome, probiotic bacteria produce many different types of postbiotic metabolites. Some of their essential functions include anti-inflammatory activity, suppressing the growth or directly killing pathogens, healing leaky gut, and stabilizing and enhancing the immune system’s role. Postbiotic metabolites regulate your health.

Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics: In addition to switching to a plant-based diet, one of the most effective ways to help correct a dysfunctional microbiome ecosystem is to consume postbiotic metabolites directly. The best way to accomplish this is by taking Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics, which are produced in a multi-year fermentation process that creates over 500 postbiotic metabolites. The postbiotic metabolites in Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics accelerate the re-establishment of a healthy microbiome ecosystem, which often quickly resolves gastrointestinal problems. This is why Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics has gained a worldwide reputation for providing fast relief from dysbiosis-related gastrointestinal symptoms.

i Salosensaari A, et al. Taxonomic Signatures of Long-Term Mortality Risk in Human Gut Microbiota. Nat Commum. 2021 May 11;12(1):2671.
ii Borodulin K, et al. Cohort Profile: The National FINRISK Study. Int J Epidemol. 2018 Jun 1;47(3):696-696i.
iii Tierney BT, et al. The predictive power of the microbiome exceeds that of genome-wide association studies in the discrimination of complex human disease. bioRxiv. Jan 2, 2020.