Dietary destabilisation of the balance between the microbiota and the colonic mucus barrier
It has long been acknowledged that dietary fibres are important to maintain a healthy gut. Over the past decade, several studies have shown that loss of complex polysaccharides from the Western diet has resulted in alterations to our colonic microbiota. The concurrent increase in the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in the Western world has driven us to explore the potential mechanistic link between diet, the microbiota and the host defence systems that normally prevent inflammation. Using mice fed a low fibre Western-style diet and robust live tissue analytical methods we have now provided evidence that this diet impairs the colonic inner mucus layer that normally separates bacteria from host cells. Western societies urgently need to develop their understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the diet-microbiota-mucus axis and its implications for inflammatory diseases.