A new study adds to research that shows adhering to a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for the gut microbiome, which in turn, strongly influences general wellness and aging.
While you cannot stop the relentless march of time, you can slow the effects of aging on health, a new study published in the British Medical Journal confirms.
The study found adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) in the elderly was associated with positive changes in the bacterial community of the gut called the microbiome. The changes were linked to indicators of less inflammation, better cognition and a lower risk of chronic illnesses such as atherosclerosis, colorectal cancer and diabetes.
Collectively, our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging.
As people age, they experience higher levels of inflammation and a decline in body functions, both of which lead to frailty and disease.
Earlier research showed that frailty correlates with a loss of diversity in the bacterial strains that make up the microbiome. In the recent study, the authors examined how following the MedDiet for a year would influence the composition of the microbiome and affect levels of key health markers.See more: Olive Oil Health Benefits
The MedDiet is comprised mainly of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish. It is also low in red meat, saturated fat, sweets and dairy products. Scientists have linked the diet to multiple benefits, including increased longevity.
Participants in the study consisted of 935 seniors from the Netherlands, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Poland. Of these, 323 individuals followed the MedDiet for 12 months, and the remaining 612 ate their regular diet.
To compare the effects of the two diets, the authors tested for hormones related to obesity and markers of inflammation. They also assessed microbial DNA from stool samples and measured the types and numbers of bacterial strains in the gut.
Analysis of the results showed several microbiome differences between individuals on the MedDiet and the control group. Close adherence to the nutritious eating plan was associated with reduced loss of microbiome diversity. The diet also boosted the population of bacterial strains that are linked to markers of improved cognition, less frailty and lower levels of inflammation.
In addition, the increased numbers of beneficial bacteria occupied key positions in the gut: conversely, bacteria associated with frailty were banished to the gut periphery. The microbiome benefits were tied to increased short-chain fatty acid production, an effect that has an array of health advantages, including reduced incidence of disease.
Positive changes noted in the microbiome were connected to improved mental and physical health. Participants on the MedDiet had sharper cognition, along with reduced inflammation and frailty; therefore, the effects on general wellness produced by the improved gut health were confirmed.
Interestingly, the benefits occurred independently of age, which raises the question of whether middle-aged and younger individuals can experience the advantages of following the eating plan, as well as the elderly.
According to coauthor Paul O’Toole of the APC Microbiome Institute, the answer is yes.
“I participated in an earlier study that shows younger people can gain some reduction of dietary metabolites linked to disease if they adhere to a MedDiet to some extent,” he told Olive Oil Times.
“Collectively, our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the authors concluded.