For several years, IAFNS has been collaborating with the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) to develop a Human Whole Stool Reference Material, with the idea that an analytical standard in this field will improve the harmonization of methods and comparability of results. For IAFNS, this is critical if we are to understand how to enable dietary guidance to optimize gut health. Along those lines, IAFNS’ focus for the material is to include specific measured metabolites – because what the microbes produce (as opposed to who they are) seems to be most relevant to health. Metabolomics methods in the nutrition and gut health space have transformed, inching the research field closer to a metabolomic profile that reflects a ‘healthy gut microbiome.’

While concrete progress has been made, the science remains in the early stages. These advancements and improved information-sharing show how difficult it is to replicate both detection and quantification of metabolites in human stool – which is what researchers analyze to evaluate the impact of nutrition and other factors.

A 2024 article in The Scientist conveyed the challenge of improving comparability across laboratories, as well as the task of creating what is likely the most complex reference material to date. IAFNS continues to work with NIST to finalize a commercially viable product, and to promote the availability and value of the material for 2024 and beyond.

Read more about the IAFNS-NIST collaboration.