- A diet rich in plant-based foods and seafood, similar to the Mediterranean diet, cultivates an abundance of gut bacteria types capable of reducing inflammation. Conversely, a diet high in meat, processed foods, and sugar triggers an increase in gut microbes known to cause inflammation.
- People consuming large quantities of vegetables, fruits, fatty fish, nuts, and fibre-dense grains generally have higher concentrations of bacteria that synthesize short-chain fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and are produced when gut bacteria ferment non-digestible fibers.
- High consumption of meat, french fries, soda, and processed snack foods results in a lack of dietary fiber, fewer bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids, and an abundance of gut microbes that provoke inflammation.
- While various factors can influence the balance of bacteria within one’s gut microbiome, diet emerges as the leading influencer in adults.
- Future research may lead to the development of individualized diets based on how a person and their gut microbiome respond to food. Currently, experts recommend a higher consumption of ‘whole’ plant foods and a reduction in processed ones.
Recent research provides noticeable insights into how our dietary practices influence the health and composition of our gut ‘microbiome’.
The term ‘microbiome’ refers to the immense assortment of bacteria and other microbes that reside naturally in the gut. Over time, extensive studies have uncovered the pivotal role these microorganisms play in the essential processes of our body such as metabolism, nutrient synthesis, immune defenses, and cognitive functions.
The Gut-Diet Connection
In a novel study, investigators discovered that a diet rich in plant-based foods and seafood — much like the renowned Mediterranean diet — offered a distinctive edge: It cultivated an abundance of gut bacteria types capable of mitigating inflammation.
Contrarily, individuals who consumed large amounts of meat, processed foods, and sugar had an excess of gut microbes known to trigger inflammation.
The Power of the Mediterranean Diet
Numerous past studies reveal a strong correlation between Mediterranean-style consumption and plant-rich diets, and decreased risks of various health conditions.
These new findings advocate further evidence that its positive impact on the gut microbiome could be a key factor behind this connection.
Dr. Rinse Weersma, a leading researcher and a professor of a renowned Netherlands university, stated: “Our study lends credence to the concept that the gut microbiome may constitute a key intermediary between diet and disease susceptibility.”
The research indicated that people consuming higher quantities of vegetables, fruits, fatty fish, nuts, and fibre-dense grains generally harbored higher concentrations of bacteria that synthesize short-chain fatty acids.
These short-chain fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and are formulated when gut bacteria ferment non-digestible fibers, speaks Dr. Weersma.
The Downside of Fast Food
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there exists a “fast-food cluster”, characterized by a high consumption of meat, french fries, soda, and processed snack foods. People in this cluster had a dearth of dietary fiber, fewer bacteria that concoct short-chain fatty acids, and a greater profusion of gut microbes that incite inflammation.
Though various factors such as genetics, age, health conditions, medication use (especially antibiotics), and stress levels can have considerable influence over the balance of bacteria within one’s gut microbiome, for adults, diet emerges as the leading influencer, according to Dr. Emeran Mayer, of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine.
Dr. Mayer, the author of the forthcoming book “The Gut-Immune Connection”, recommends a primarily plant-based diet adjusted for individual’s needs rather than resorting to probiotic supplements.
Beyond the Diet
Diet alone can’t counteract poor nutritional choices,” he comments. He advocates the necessity for a holistic change encompassing diet and lifestyle.
The new revelations published in the online journal, _Gut_, are sourced from a study involving over 1,400 Dutch adults. Both healthy individuals and those suffering from digestive disorders, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, took part in the study.
Regardless of their health status, the study unearthed a consistent link between a diet composed mainly of plant and fish foods and anti-inflammatory gut microbes.
Future of Gut Microbiome Research
Dr. Andrew Chan, a Harvard Medical School professor and gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke of the increasing evidence established over the years linking gut microbiome to dietary practices and disease risks.
Furthermore, research seems to indicate the potential for individualized diets based on how a person and their gut microbiome respond to food.
For now, Dr. Andrew Chan and Dr. Rinse Weersma both agree on the recommendation for increased consumption of ‘whole’ plant foods and a reduction in processed ones.
For additional information on gut microbiome and diet, refer to the Harvard School of Public Health’s guide.