Food & Cooking

Researchers Recommend MedDiet to Restore Gut Bacteria

A team at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom are working to advance research on the Mediterranean diet and other healthy diets that promote healthy gut bacteria.

3D image of gut bacteria
Oct. 29, 2019
By Lisa Anderson
3D image of gut bacteria

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Individuals who con­sume a typ­i­cal Mediterranean diet are less prone to anom­alies in gas­troin­testi­nal micro­biota, a grow­ing body of evi­dence sug­gests.

Now, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), in the United Kingdom, are work­ing to add to this col­lec­tive knowl­edge. Haleh Moravej, a senior lec­turer in nutri­tional sci­ence at MMU, and a team of stu­dents at the uni­ver­sity have launched the MetMUnch ini­tia­tive in order to do so.

Olive oil as part of a healthy, varied and fresh Mediterranean diet and as part of a healthy lifestyle will always be ben­e­fi­cial for phys­i­cal and mental health.- Haleh Moravej, senior lec­turer in nutri­tional sci­ence at MMU

“Scientists have known for a long time that there is a con­nec­tion between our gut and brain via nerves, but now we have gut bac­te­ria enter­ing the arena,” Moravej told Olive Oil Times.

“They com­mu­ni­cate with the brain in three dif­fer­ent ways,” she added, “They send sig­nals up the vagus nerve directly to the brain, influ­ence immune cells in the gut that pro­duce chem­i­cals that travel in the blood, and some can get through the blood-brain bar­rier to the brain.”

See more: Olive Oil Health Benefits

Moravej based the ini­tia­tive on the prin­ci­ple that micro­biota in the human gas­troin­testi­nal tract are respon­si­ble for proper diges­tive func­tion­ing and a strong immune system. She added that fol­low­ing a healthy eating plan, such as the Mediterranean diet, con­tributes to a healthy gas­troin­testi­nal micro­biota.

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“The diet con­tains many foods that are pro­bi­otic, which pro­vide good food for the bac­te­ria,” Moravej said. “The foods are plant-based, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits.”

“All these have ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cals such as polyphe­nols,” she added. “Olive oil as part of a healthy, varied and fresh Mediterranean diet and as part of a healthy lifestyle will always be ben­e­fi­cial for phys­i­cal and mental health.”

Moravej also built on research that sug­gests that anom­alies in these microor­gan­isms have far-reach­ing health effects, and that these irreg­u­lar­i­ties can cause stress-related mental dis­or­ders, such as anx­i­ety.

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“Studies sug­gest that bac­te­ria can affect hor­mones and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters,” Moravej said. “Microbes can pro­duce almost every neu­ro­trans­mit­ter found in the human brain.”

“We know that people who have at least 30 plant-based ele­ments in their weekly diet have a more diverse bac­te­ria in their gut, which is asso­ci­ated with better weight man­age­ment, better heart health and better mental health,” she added.

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Moravej has also worked with Manchester-based national char­ity Anxiety UK to com­pile a book­let as part of the ini­tia­tive, in which the Mediterranean diet and other healthy diets are pro­moted.

Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, told Olive Oil Times that the book­let – Nutrition and Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide – advises people to con­sume food that has “mood-boost­ing prop­er­ties” and advises on which other types of food to avoid.

“It also gives the sci­ence behind how it all works to help better edu­cate those expe­ri­enc­ing anx­i­ety, stress and anx­i­ety-based depres­sion on what they are eating and why,” she said. “Food most def­i­nitely impacts on mood, and there­fore main­tain­ing a healthy diet is impor­tant in the man­age­ment of anx­i­ety.”

However, Moravej added that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to improve the sci­en­tific under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship, which is what she plans to con­tinue doing with Anxiety UK and stu­dents in the MetMUnch ini­tia­tive.