TREND: The microbiome is the lynchpin of immune health

With eye-opening new research on the gut as control central for immunity, microbiome health will move to the center of health and wellness
With the pandemic, immune health became people’s obsession. In 2020, the wellness market led with quick-fix immune “boosting” supplements and therapies–but none of them can change the complex immune system much, and any idea that you can “boost” the immune system is unscientific.
In 2021, because of crucial new research and some lessons from COVID-19, the microbiome becomes radically more important.
An incredible 70% of our immune system is headquartered in our “gut”–an extraordinarily complex, 100-trillion-cell system of bacteria, viruses and fungi.
New studies are a real wake-up call about the microbiome’s impact on immune response and chronic disease. A new global study from Predict, the world’s largest research project on how individuals respond to food, found that the gut-immunity connection is profound; that there are powerful links between certain bacteria in the microbiome and risk for diabetes and obesity; and that diet is the # 1 determinant of our microbiome (far more than genetics). Several studies revealed that the gut microorganisms of COVID patients look radically different than those of the uninfected, and that “bad bacteria” were a huge predictor of the disease. 
More people and wellness businesses will embrace the basic gut-health weapons: fiber-rich, whole, unprocessed foods (crucial); prebiotics; fermented probiotics; and now even postbiotics are coming. “Food as medicine” will take on a new urgency.
New research (like Predict’s) shows that the same foods impact individual’s microbiomes very differently. That's why startups are working overtime to create better microbiome testing for personalized nutrition. Testing is in its relative infancy, but will evolve fast, using AI and machine-learning to crack individual microbiomes to prescribe personal diets/therapies. Two scientist-founded testing companies to watch: Israel’s Day Two and Zoe Global.
The medical world is making unprecedented investments in microbiome research to develop new therapies, testing platforms, and personalized nutrition models. A microbiome focus is forecast to change the entire healthcare industry in the next few years, creating a whole new side-effect-free and personalized medicine. The NIH just announced the largest study ($156 million) on how foods impact gut microbes and overall health, to transform “precision nutrition.”
More wellness centers and travel destinations will put microbiome health at the center of programming, such as Buchinger Wilhelmi’s (Germany) new Immunity+ program or SHA Wellness Clinic’s new Gut Health program (Spain). Destinations will use food-as-medicine programs along with a host of diagnostic tests–from immune profile to microbial imbalance testing.
Research mounts that the microbiome doesn’t just control the immune system, our hormones, and our metabolic health, but also plays a massive role in how our brain functions and our mental health (the gut microbes of depressed and anxious people look very different). This will further fuel the trend of microbiome health moving to the very center of wellness.
We predict a lot of action in 2021, with consumers embracing both the basics and new experiments.

This is from the 15-page “Future of Immune Health: Stop Boosting, Start Balancing” trend in the 2021 Global Wellness Trends Report.

Summit Trend in the News

How the right foods may lead to a healthier gut, and better health New York Times

Lays out the eye-opening findings from the large, new international study from PREDICT. If scientists know that “bad” microbes in our gut increase risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes, this study found that our microbiomes are overwhelmingly shaped by what we eat.

A healthy microbiome builds a strong immune system that could help defeat COVID-19 – The Conversation

Written by a microbiologist whose studies reveal how diet can evoke a strong immune response. She explains how bacteria in our microbiome are “spectacular companions diligently priming our immune system to combat infections by distinguishing between harmful and helpful microbes”–and how healthy foods shift the microbiome to a healthy immune response.
Startups focused on gut microbiome raised $1B in VC Funding – Crunchbase

With the avalanche of research on the microbiome’s impact on immunity and disease, so many more startups are launching, and they’re becoming an investor money magnet.

Go with your gut—the hidden secrets and powers of microbiomes – Economist podcast

A talk with scientists on how when microbiomes go rogue, they create an astonishing array of physical and mental disorders/diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc.) and how the big buzz is manipulating the microbiome to treat diseases.

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