Evidence Map of Gut Metabolites Identifies Links to Cancer, Digestive Disorders

Washington D. C. — When food reaches our lower gastrointestinal tract, chemicals called metabolites are made, and some of those can impact our health.

A first step to learning more is a scoping analysis of available evidence about 10 key gut metabolites and their potential impact on health outcomes like cancers, digestive disorders and other illnesses. 

The 10 selected metabolites have a range of physical effects and IAFNS turned to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to conduct a scoping review of 352 peer-reviewed studies of the 10 metabolites. 

The “evidence-mapping” review now available is intended to identify areas where more detailed, systematic reviews of current evidence are warranted as well as areas where there are data gaps. 

The 10 metabolites were selected by experts from a set of metabolites identified in a National Institute of Standards and Technology workshop report.

Most of the studies reviewed by the scientists evaluated deoxycholic acid (DCA) or lithocholic acid (LCA). The greatest amount of evidence was for relationships between these metabolites and liver/gallbladder disorders, colorectal cancer, and other digestive disorders.

The mapping review suggests that evidence from case-control studies on several associations may permit future systematic reviews, namely: the association between DCA and liver/gallbladder disorders, DCA and colorectal cancers, and several others.

According to the authors, “Systematic reviews of these metabolites would be useful to characterize the direction and magnitude of metabolite-disease associations and, ultimately, inform decisions, including those about future studies.”

Learning more about metabolites and what constitutes a “healthy gut microbiome” will advance public health through possible alterations in diet and other public health measures.  The study “Diet-Related and Gut-Derived Metabolites and Health Outcomes: A Scoping Review” was published in the Journal Metabolites and is available here.

The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) is a 501(c)(3) science-focused nonprofit uniquely positioned to mobilize government, industry and academia to drive, fund and lead actionable research. This work was supported by IAFNS Gut Microbiome Committee. For more information, visit iafns.org.