Food-derived opioid peptides include digestive products derived from cereal and dairy diets. If these opioid peptides breach the intestinal barrier, typically linked to permeability and constrained biosynthesis of dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4), they can attach to opioid receptors. The widespread presence of opioid receptors spanning gut, brain, and internal organs is fundamental to the diverse and systemic effects of food-derived opioids, with effects being evidential across many health conditions. However, manifestation delays following low-intensity long-term exposure create major challenges for clinical trials. Accordingly, it has been easiest to demonstrate causal relationships in digestion-based research where some impacts occur rapidly. Within this environment, the role of the microbiome is evidential but challenging to further elucidate, with microbiome effects ranging across gut-condition indicators and modulators, and potentially as systemic causal factors. Elucidation requires a systemic framework that acknowledges that public-health effects of food-derived opioids are complex with varying genetic susceptibility and confounding factors, together with system-wide interactions and feedbacks. The specific role of the microbiome within this puzzle remains a medical frontier. The easiest albeit challenging nutritional strategy to modify risk is reduced intake of foods containing embedded opioids. In future, constituent modification within specific foods to reduce embedded opioids may become feasible.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.