A study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found the MedDiet Increased the beneficial bacteria in the gut by 7 percent after 30 months.
In recent years, a hot area of research is the gut microbiome, as scientists are finding it has effects on health that go far beyond digestion. A new investigation discovered the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) may boost the diversity of bacteria, as well as raise numbers of the beneficial strains of bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Our study showed that the good bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus, most of which are probiotic, were significantly increased in the Mediterranean diet group.
Using primates, researchers designed the study to show what would happen if the Western diet and MedDiet were consumed over a sustained period of time. A problem involved in long-term studies on humans is that they are usually based on self-reported food questionnaires, which results in an estimation rather than a precise calculation of nutrient intake, lead author Hariom Yadav, assistant professor of molecular medicine and microbiology and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, explained in a news release.
“We have about 2 billion good and bad bacteria living in our gut. If the bacteria are of a certain type and not properly balanced, our health can suffer. Our study showed that the good bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus, most of which are probiotic, were significantly increased in the Mediterranean diet group,” Yadav added.
In the investigation, the primates were randomized to receive either the Western diet or the MedDiet for 30 months. As the Western diet eaten by humans includes plenty of red meat and sweets, the study’s version of it consisted of beef tallow, lard, cholesterol, butter, eggs, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.
Since the MedDiet is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, oily fish, whole grains and olive oil; the study’s simulation of it involved fruit puree, vegetable juice, olive oil, fish meal, fish oil, black and garbanzo bean flour, butter, wheat flour, eggs and sucrose. The two diets had an equal number of calories.
At the end of the 30 months, fecal samples were tested to analyze the gut microbiome, which is the community of beneficial and harmful bacterial strains that reside in the intestinal tract.
The findings showed the bacterial diversity of the gut was noticeably higher in primates on the MedDiet than those on the Western diet. Moreover, the beneficial bacteria increased 7 percent in the former but rose only 0.5 percent in the latter.
In an interview with Olive Oil Times, Yadav speculated on what characteristics and properties of the MedDiet may be responsible for its value to the microbiome.
“it’s not known yet why and how the MedDiet can increase beneficial bacteria in the gut; however, we assume there might be two reasons. One is that the diet is rich in healthful plant- and fish-based fat, which may serve as food to grow beneficial bacteria. The other reason is that the MedDiet also has a high content of plant-based fibers that can better feed the growth of good bacteria like lactobacilli,” he said.
When asked whether the MedDiet’s positive effect on the gut microbiome might be the one of the factors responsible the eating plan’s link to the lower risk of chronic disease, Yadav replied that it may, indeed. They are investigating the possible connection further.
“Our published data have not shown any relationship with chronic diseases; however, our ongoing studies are investigating the link of increased good bacteria upon consumption of the MedDiet with improved metabolic and cognitive functions,” Yadav said.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.