Though our guts contain a trillion bacteria in various compositions, it's become popular to claim any detectable change is a bad thing. Unless it is to sell yogurt, where no detectable change is regarded as a probiotic good thing.

Now even at the nano- level. A new study claims ultra-small particles adhere to intestinal microorganisms, thereby affecting their life cycle as well as cross talk with the host. Nanoparticles’ binding inhibits the infection with Helicobacter pylori, a pathogen implicated in gastric cancer and the authors hope this could the development of potential 'probiotic' nanoparticles for food. Homeopaths are cheering.

 The authors state that due to their minute size, nanoparticles may have unique characteristics and capabilities, such as adhering to microstructures. Nutrition strongly influences the diversity and composition of our microbiome, often to no real effect though in rare cases to detrimental effect, which set off the probiotic craze much like a study of 12 people set off the gluten-free fad. In this case 'microbiome' describes all colonizing trillion microorganisms present in a human being, in particular, all the bacteria in the gut, but can also be microorganisms that colonize your skin, mouth, and nasal cavity.

Silica nanoparticles adhering to an intestinal bacterium visualized by atomic force microscopy. Credit: Stauber Group, Mainz University Medical Center

Probiotic supplement sales people claim they can boost your immune system, metabolism, vascular aging, cerebral functioning, and fix your hormonal system, if you believe that you are being overrun with endocrine disrupting chemicals or other homeopathic effects.  Some even claim the microbiome is linked to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, allergies, obesity, and mental disorders.

Given that is causes and cures everything where a statistician has chosen to look, the authors sought to see whether and how nano-additives directly influence the gastrointestinal flora - on a computer. They simulated the journey of particles through the different environments of the digestive tract in the laboratory and a paper was born.

The scientists estimate that these binding processes can have different outcomes. Nanoparticle-bound microorganisms were less efficiently recognized by the immune system, which may lead to increased inflammatory responses but 'nano-food' showed beneficial effects. In cell culture models, silica nanoparticles inhibited the infectivity of Helicobacter pylori, which is considered to be one of the main agents involved in gastric cancer.

Get ready for a whole lot of Probiotic labels to show up on Pink Himalayan Salt containers in Whole Foods.

Citation: S. Siemer et al., Nanosized food additives impact beneficial and pathogenic bacteria in the human gut: a simulated gastrointestinal study, npj Science of Food 2:22, 4 December 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41538-018-0030-8