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Immune support: The biodiversity hypothesis

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The microbiome concept is a hot new term that is defining the new immune-support space.

If you have young kids, then you know that dirt and mud are nearly impossible to resist for people with little fingers and inquisitive minds. 

It turns out that’s a pretty good thing when it comes to charging up juvenile immune systems, at least as far as one notable study—recently coordinated by biological researchers in Finland—concluded.  

There, an urban day care center covered in pavement, tile and gravel was transformed into a green space replete with a lawn, planted forest undergrowth and crops in planter boxes for the kiddos to care for. From there, it took less than a month for improved immunity markers and increased T-cell counts to show up in the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds studied, along with intestinal microbiota as diverse as that found in kids who visit a full-grown forest every day. 

By now you’re asking, what does this have to do with supplements? Great question! 

Even with the limited scope of this particularly intriguing study, the researchers found microbes in the guts of children who regularly played in green spaces had increased diversity, which in the past has been linked to an overall healthier immune system. 

Diversity of microbiota is a central benefit cited by many ingredient suppliers and finished supplement products leading the market these days. And in the newly evolving sector of personalized nutrition, it’s the underlying strategy behind microbiome testing and customized supplementation. The Viome custom program is a great example.  

“When you get your Viome results, you’ll see your gut microbiome richness and diversity score, along with foods you should eat plenty of, foods you should minimize, and foods you should avoid altogether. Your personalized recommendations help you feed the beneficial microbes living in your gut, while starving the harmful ones—boosting your overall richness and diversity,” the company tells potential customers as part of its pitch. After getting customers to download the company’s app and take a personal microbiome test (i.e., a stool sample), and offering some diet advice, Viome then comes up with a precision supplement formula to achieve maximum microbiome diversity. 

The issue that unfolds here isn’t all about the microbiome—though the leading immune ingredients mentioned in this month's Natural Products Insider free monthly digital magazine includes some innovative pre-, pro- and postbiotic products—but it’s clear the connection between immune health and the body’s microbial makeup is a key and current exploration. 

Get your metaphorical fingers dirty by exploring even more about immunity on the virtual pages of the free NPI digital magazine. Download it here

Duffy Hayes 

Associate editor 

[email protected] 

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