`Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Associated with Better Gut Health in Older Adults - Olive Oil Times

Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Associated with Better Gut Health in Older Adults

By Simon Roots
May. 7, 2024 13:52 UTC

A new study pub­lished in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adher­ing to a low-calo­rie Mediterranean diet along­side phys­i­cal activ­ity yields sig­nif­i­cant car­dio­vas­cu­lar ben­e­fits.

The research sug­gests these lifestyle changes impact car­dio­vas­cu­lar health by alter­ing the colon’s bac­te­r­ial com­po­si­tion and metabo­lite pro­duc­tion.

The find­ings rep­re­sent a sub­stan­tial advance­ment in under­stand­ing pre­ven­tive mea­sures against car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases, which are the pri­mary cause of death in devel­oped nations.

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The Mediterranean diet has long been asso­ci­ated with pos­i­tive gut microbes and metabo­lites, yet its effect on the fecal metabolome is poorly under­stood.

The tra­di­tional Mediterranean diet involves a high intake of veg­eta­bles, fruits, legumes and nuts, mod­er­ate con­sump­tion of fish, low con­sump­tion of meat, mod­er­ate alco­hol and extra vir­gin olive oil as the pri­mary fat source.

Greater adher­ence to the Mediterranean diet cor­re­lates with ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria and metabo­lites, attrib­uted to increased fiber-degrad­ing species and anti-inflam­ma­tory responses.

However, its effects on gut micro­biota and plasma metabolome are incon­sis­tent across stud­ies, with unclear impacts on car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease risk fac­tors.

With the lat­est study, researchers aimed to assess the weight-loss impact of a year-long lifestyle inter­ven­tion based on an energy-reduced Mediterranean diet with phys­i­cal activ­ity (inter­ven­tion group) com­pared to an ad libi­tum Mediterranean diet (con­trol group) on fecal metabo­lites, micro­biota and their links to car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease risk fac­tors.

The inter­ven­tion affected four stool metabo­lites, pri­mar­ily com­posed of bile acids, ceramides, sphin­gosines, fatty acids, car­nitines, nucleotides and purine and Krebs cycle metabo­lites.

The study involved 400 par­tic­i­pants aged 55 to 75 at high car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk, and data were col­lected at base­line and after a year.

The researchers found that the inter­ven­tion group exhib­ited greater weight loss and improved car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors com­pared to the con­trol.

These changes were asso­ci­ated with alter­ations in car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease risk fac­tors. Moreover, cer­tain gut bac­te­ria gen­era were reduced, and alpha diver­sity increased in the inter­ven­tion group.

The study’s results sug­gested an inter­play between diet, metabo­lites and gut micro­biota. While pre­vi­ous stud­ies focused on plasma or urine metabo­lites, few explored the fecal metabolome.

Results from par­tic­i­pants with obe­sity and meta­bolic syn­drome indi­cated reduc­tions in plasma cho­les­terol and fecal bile acid (metabo­lites involved in nutri­ent absorp­tion) con­cen­tra­tions after the Mediterranean diet inter­ven­tion.

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The inter­ven­tion enriched gut bac­te­r­ial gen­era linked to bile acid metab­o­lism and increased fecal cadav­er­ine, which is asso­ci­ated with improved insulin sen­si­tiv­ity.

Participants in the inter­ven­tion group showed more sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tions in adi­pos­ity (fat tis­sue accu­mu­la­tion) and improve­ments in lipid pro­file and glu­cose mark­ers.

Furthermore, decreases in the abun­dance of E. hal­lii and Dorea spp. were observed in the inter­ven­tion group, linked to changes in fecal metabo­lites and car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors.

E. hal­lii is impli­cated in glu­cose metab­o­lism and insulin resis­tance, while Dorea spp. is asso­ci­ated with pre­di­a­betes and ele­vated blood glu­cose lev­els.

The researchers acknowl­edged that the study had some lim­i­ta­tions. The par­tic­i­pants were older Mediterranean adults with spe­cific health con­di­tions, so gen­er­al­iz­ing the results to other pop­u­la­tions may not be appro­pri­ate.

Additionally, the sequenc­ing method used in the study lim­its tax­o­nomic pro­fil­ing to the genus level, hin­der­ing dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion between closely related bac­te­ria and lim­it­ing the abil­ity to infer func­tion­al­ity.

However, the study has notable strengths. Despite the non-rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple, the find­ings are rel­e­vant for a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the global pop­u­la­tion at high risk of car­diometa­bolic dis­eases.

The ran­dom­ized con­trolled design allowed for estab­lish­ing causal­ity and assess­ing inter­ven­tion effects, with adjust­ments made for sig­nif­i­cant con­founders, reduc­ing resid­ual con­found­ing. Although the sequenc­ing method has lim­i­ta­tions, it is suit­able for ana­lyz­ing many sam­ples.

Beyond indi­vid­ual health out­comes, the researchers said under­stand­ing the impact of these inter­ven­tions on the gut micro­biome sheds light on mech­a­nisms under­ly­ing improved car­diometa­bolic bio­mark­ers.

They hope this knowl­edge will inform tar­geted pub­lic health strate­gies and per­son­al­ized health rec­om­men­da­tions, tai­lor­ing inter­ven­tions based on indi­vid­ual micro­biome pro­files for more effec­tive pre­ven­tion and man­age­ment of car­diometa­bolic dis­eases.


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