Dr. Katrine Whiteson is an Assistant Professor at University of California Irvine and the Associate Director of the recently launched UCI Microbiome Initiative. She studied Biochemistry at UC Berkeley (BA, 2000) and University of Chicago (PhD, 2007). Our lab studies the human microbiome in health and disease. This has us hunting for bacteria, fungi and viruses in feces, sewage, sputum and other well-loved samples - the students are brave!
I have a life-long affection for lentils,which has only grown stronger since learning about the importance of fiber for the microbiome. I ate Egyptian Red Lentil soup almost every day as a grad student at the University of Chicago, and as a Type 1 diabetic since age 6 I am acutely aware of how fiber helps slow blood sugar rise after a meal. An average North American eats less than half of the daily recommended fiber allowance (25 g/day and 35 g/day for women and men, respectively), which means that we are starving our gut microbes of their favorite essential substrates, with enormous health implications that we will discuss. Last year as part of our UCI Microbiome Initiative we designed a Course Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) course where students ate 50 grams of fiber a day for two weeks, and we studied diet logs and fecal microbiomes before and after the intervention. The foods that can help you increase your fiber intake may surprise you - lentils and beans will get you there quickly, and even avocados and berries are great sources. I will discuss results from the dietary fiber intervention along with an introduction to the human microbiome in health, disease and around the world, and bring you to the edge of human knowledge about engineering human microbiomes. Attendees will also discuss microbiome and lifestyle questions including: Will yogurt affect my gut microbiome? How about yoga, lentils, or probiotics? What is phage therapy? Should I bank my own stool sample in case I need a fecal transplant to restore my microbiome after getting antibiotics?