KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 – Billionaire Bill Gates has expressed hope that probiotic pills could solve the world’s malnutrition problem in the next 20 years.
Gates said next-generation probiotic pills would be created in the future that contained ideal combinations of bacteria. Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, are purportedly essential to digestion and are usually added to milk beverages like Yakult.
“I get asked a lot what I would choose if I could only solve one problem. My answer is always malnutrition – the greatest health inequity in the world,” Gates wrote in an article for The Telegraph.
“And thanks to new scientific breakthroughs I believe we will find a way to solve the issue of malnutrition within 20 years.”
Listing wasting (low weight for height) and stunting (low height for weight) as the main problems of malnutrition among children, he said that if a child doesn’t get enough nutrition during the first three years of life, they don’t develop properly – physically or mentally.
“Even if you survive to adulthood, your chances of dying are much higher, and your quality of life is greatly reduced. Despite all of the amazing progress we’ve made on health, one out of every five children under five today are stunted.
“The most obvious reason why is because you don’t get enough of the right food over a long period of time,” Gates said.
“But there are a few less intuitive causes of stunting. A deeper understanding of one of those reasons – the microbiome of the human body – is why I believe we’re going to solve malnutrition within 20 years,” he opined.
Admitting that science is still in the relatively early stages of research into the microbiome, Gates expressed his vision that over the next 10 to 20 years, more breakthroughs in research will be achieved to understand each individual microbial species and how they work with consumed food to impact health.
“You’re probably familiar with one of these interventions: probiotics. In the future, we’ll be able to create next-generation probiotic pills that contain ideal combinations of bacteria – even ones that are tailored to your specific gut,” he further said.
“Another intervention could be what’s called ‘microbiota directed complementary foods’. Think of them as being like fertiliser for the microbiome. Eating them encourages healthy bacteria – the ones that help digest food and protect us from infection – to flourish.
“If we can figure nutrition out – and I believe we will within the next two decades – we’ll save millions of lives and improve even more,” Gates ended his piece.