Importance of diet for metabolism, gut microbiota and health

Measuring dietary intake of the study participants is challenging and the methods are to a large extent population and culture specific. One approach that we have taken is to develop diet quality indices. The idea is to describe the overall dietary quality with reference to the recommended diet. Further the dietary quality indexes are easy to fill in, and stand-alone indexes that are representative of the dietary intake of each group of participants. Thus far we have developed IDQ (Index for Dietary Quality) for adults (Leppälä et al. 2010) and CIDQ (Children’s Index of Diet Quality) for preschool aged children (Röytiö et al. 2015) and we are currently developing an index for school aged children within the AKORA project.

We have studied how dietary quality reflects metabolism and health. For example, we demonstrated that a higher overall dietary quality related to higher gut microbiota diversity, which is considered beneficial for health (Laitinen & Mokkala 2019). Another example of our studies revealing the importance of dietary patterns for health is demonstration of the relations between the recommended intakes of fibre and fat with higher gut microbiota richness (Röytiö et al. 2017). We have also demonstrated that greater fat consumption related to higher weight gain during pregnancy (Pellonperä et al. 2019). Importantly we demonstrated that the higher fat consumption also contributed to body composition, evidenced as an increase in fat mass.

These findings are important in developing dietary counselling for pregnant women, particularly as higher adiposity has been shown to increase complications in pregnancy and further to relate to long-term adverse health effects in both the mother and the child. We anticipate to detect benefits in child metabolism and health due to optimizing maternal dietary intake.