Human health is complex, and the influence each internal system has on another can be quite extensive. Take epilepsy, for instance. It is well-established that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat ketogenic diet (KD) can help treat refractory epilepsy, which affects more than a third of epileptic patients who don’t respond to existing anticonvulsive drugs. What scientists haven’t understood until recently is how this kind of diet translates to brain activity. Turns out the answer lies in the gut microbiome.

In a study from a team at the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that gut bacteria play a key role in facilitating the effects that a KD can have on refractory epilepsy. In vivo studies by Olson et al., established a causal link between two specific types of gut bacteria that flourish under a KD and protection against seizures in two different mouse models of epilepsy, including one that mirrors human disease. One important conclusion was that both of the bacterial species must be present to protect against seizures.

The study revealed a molecular understanding of how the keto diet works: the diet changes gut microbes that make certain metabolites, ultimately affecting the brain antiseizure neurotransmitter GABA.

According to an article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, the conclusion that the gut microbiota was a key intermediary between diet and host physiology is “a feasible concept, because gut microbiota are also increasingly being linked with changes in factors that are relevant to how neurons communicate, including neurotransmitter signaling, synaptic protein expression, and myelination, as well as to complex stress-induced social and cognitive behaviors. Given emerging evidence linking gut microbiota to dietary responses, neuronal activity, and behavior, the researchers hypothesized that the gut microbiome may also play a role in the antiseizure effects of a ketogenic diet.”

These findings open the potential for more targeted and consistently effective approaches. In fact, the work showed so much potential that it spawned a new company, Bloom Science, devoted to developing new drugs to target the gut-brain axis in epilepsy and neurological disorders.

While it may seem like a strange connection that a person’s diet can impact brain activity, it goes to show how complex human health is. There is still much to be revealed about human health. Metabolomics, the study of metabolites in living systems, was the keystone ‘omic in solving the puzzle linking KD and seizure prevention, leading to a practical implementation of findings, and has potential to help us reveal even more previously unseen insights. Metabolomics provides the full picture of a biological system enabling deep understanding of human health and disease, as well as the impact of external factors like nutrition, pollution and medication.

Metabolon pioneered LC-MSprecision metabolomics at scale, and our comprehensive view reveals the mosaic of functional health, answering the most challenging biological questions. By providing a better understanding of biology, we can unravel the mystery of human health.  

Contact us today at hello@metabolon.com to learn more about putting metabolomics to work for you.