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Summer Science Exhibition 2007

A microbial journey through digestion









The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG


Researchers use artificial laboratory models of the human colon to study the ecology of gut bacteria. They are important tools to test out new food ingredients designed to manipulate the gut microbial ecology to optimise health.

Dr Adele Costabile, Professor Glenn Gibson, Dr Sofia Kolida, Professor Bob Rastall, Dr Kieran Tuohy and Dr Gemma Walton, The University of Reading

Researchers at the University of Reading are studying bacteria found in the human gut to find ways to increase well being and reduce disease risk.

Bacteria in the human digestive tract are acquired at birth and develop and change throughout our lives. What we eat affects our health both positively and negatively. New foods have been designed to change the micro-organisms in the gut to improve health.

Micro-organisms are sometimes associated with illnesses such as gastroenteritis. But most are not at all bad – many of the foods we enjoy, such as bread, cheese, wine and chocolate, are made with the help of micro-organisms. The bacteria in our gut digest this food, and the make up of the food we eat can affect our wellbeing.

“Micro-organisms are found everywhere in our environment, and many are found in foods that we eat. Our team is looking to better understand the delicate balance of the bacteria we use to digest our food so that we can help regulate their activity to improve health and prevent diseases,” says Professor Bob Rastall. “Our diet has developed and changed over thousands of years and it is important to understand how and why our diet affects health so that we can improve our future dietary choices.”

A microbial journey through digestion The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK