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  • The Link Between Human Microbiomes and Healthy Soils, and More!

The Link Between Human Microbiomes and Healthy Soils, and More!

We talk a lot here at the farm and in newsletters about the importance of micro-organisms in healthy soils. It’s estimated that one handful of organic garden soil holds over a million micro-organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. These micro-organisms are responsible for, among other things, breaking down organic matter to release nutrients needed by plants that turn them into vital nutrition for human consumption.

But did you know that our human body is also full of micro-organisms? They’re called human microbiomes. Haven’t heard of them? We hadn’t either until the past year or so. Now we learn that the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a project called the Human Microbiome Project that is funding scientists from across the US who are researching, are you ready for this, the trillions (you read that right, trillions!) of micro-organisms living in and on our bodies. What they’re after is how these micro-organisms might affect and even predict our physical and mental health.

Just like in healthy soils, the microbiomes are essential to life. These microbial cells are only one-tenth to one-hundredth the size of a human cell, yet they account for an estimated 3-5 pounds of adult body weight! The bacteria in our gut help digest food, produce certain vitamins, metabolize carcinogens, ferment dietary fibers, regulate our immune system, protect us from diesase-causing strains of bacteria and even communicate with our brain. Busy little guys.

Not too surprisingly, what these scientists are already discovering is that the micro-organisms inhabiting our intestines are linked to many autoimmune diseases. The gut microbes are also linked to obesity, diet, geography, age and behavior. There’s also believed to be a link between human microbiomes and  autism. Writing in ACRES USA, Melinda Hemmelgarn the so-called “Food Sleuth”, concludes, “I’m betting that some of the most exciting research and discoveries into the root causes of health and disease will come from the Human Microbiome Project.”

The link between microbiomes and farming is clear, at least in our eyes and in the lives of soil scientists. Robert Kremer, a USDA soil scientist and microbiologist from the Univ. of Missouri, says, “When the soil is functioning properly with all properties interacting optimally or in synchrony, vital processes for living organisms in a vigorous and healthy state should be in place.”

It’s official: Organic food found to be healthier than “conventional” food

So, it was no surprise when we read this morning the results of a definitive study on the health benefits of eating organic food versus non-organic published by Newcastle Univ. The authors conclude, “Organic fruits, vegetables and cereals contain significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. They added that organic produce and cereals were found to have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides.”

“This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals,” lead study author Carlo Leifert said, per a news release. “This constitutes an important addition to the information currently available to consumers which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.

“Many of these [antioxidant] compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including [cardiovascular] and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies,” the paper reads.

Voila! There’s the link folks — from researchers on opposite sides of the Atlantic — between human microbiomes and healthy soils and nutritious food.

We point all this out because every once in a while, there’s synchronicity between what we produce, what we all eat and that scientific world out there validating the importance of it all. No pun intended, but that’s certainly a lot of food for thought.