Dr. Faiga Magzal, a women researcher from Gush Halav, Israel, researchs insomnia and its relationship to the gut

Submitted by HY on Thu, 04/08/2021 - 14:00

Dr. Faiga Magzal, a resident of Gush Halav, Israel, is a researcher in the Laboratory of Nutrition and Human Health at the MIGAL Research Institute and a faculty member in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Tel Hai College. She researches the relationship between nutrition, gut bacteria and neurobiological disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insomnia, depression and anxiety.  She is also developing an application, which recommends a personalized diet according to gut bacterial composition, to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the above disorders.

The human colon is populated by a wide variety of microorganisms (microbiota), which are now known to play a key role in regulating metabolic processes in the human body and maintaining health. Consumption of specific food components, such as dietary fiber, is broken down by intestinal bacteria in the colon. As a result of the fermentation process, many metabolites (products) are formed, the main ones being metabolites called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs serve as an energy source for cells that surround the digestive system and can pass into the bloodstream, reaching the brain and affecting sleep and mood. The research group in the Laboratory for Nutrition and Human Health is investigating the connection between neurobiological disorders (such as ADHD, depression, anxiety and insomnia) and microbiota metabolites. Recently, the laboratory staff participated in the execution of two clinical trials conducted on elderly adults suffering from depression and insomnia. In both studies, the elderly received advice and guidance on a personalized diet based on a comprehensive nutritional assessment, including information on intestinal bacteria composition. The microbiota composition and their metabolites' characterization were obtained before and after a 6-month intervention period. Preliminary results showed that on depressed patients who received a personalized diet, the level of depression decreased, and there was a significant increase in the quality of life (an increase in the indicators of physical health, mental health, and social relationships). In the insomnia trial, preliminary results showed differences in microbiota composition and metabolite concentrations in those with a more severe insomnia phenotype versus those with a normal phenotype. The more severe the insomnia symptoms were in adults, the higher the level of SCFA in the stool. These results may indicate a decrease in SCFA absorption capacity by the gut cells (these results were published recently in the journal Scientific Reports).

Based on the data obtained in these clinical trials and other studies conducted by the team, the researchers are working on the development of a food supplement based on pro- and prebiotic components that may help alleviate symptoms of depression and/or sleep disorders and improve the elderly's quality of life. The efficacy of the supplement will be tested in preclinical and clinical trials.

According to Dr. Faiga Magzal, "Women's involvement in research is immeasurably important. Their deep understanding of the role food ingredients play in the gut microbiome composition, and the effects they cause on health, might positively influence future generations' food habits, since women traditionally are highly involved in family food choices."

Link to article - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33603001/