For several years, the Mediterranean diet has been considered one of the healthiest, and for good reason. It’s emphasis on healthy fats, like olive oil and fish, plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, make it a favorite for anyone who wants to keep their blood pressure and weight in check, but still enjoy good food.
Another twist in the reasons for following the Mediterranean diet is that it actually alters the environment in your gut, positively affecting beneficial bacteria. For older individuals, the result is more than better digestion. Researchers found that after a year on the diet, it also meant a stronger immune system, better cognitive function, and less frailty overall.
Ghosh TS, Rampelli S, Jeffery IB, et al. Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries [published online ahead of print, 2020 Feb 17]. Gut. 2020;gutjnl-2019-319654. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654
Objective: Ageing is accompanied by deterioration of multiple bodily functions and inflammation, which collectively contribute to frailty. We and others have shown that frailty co-varies with alterations in the gut microbiota in a manner accelerated by consumption of a restricted diversity diet. The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is associated with health. In the NU-AGE project, we investigated if a 1-year MedDiet intervention could alter the gut microbiota and reduce frailty.
Design: We profiled the gut microbiota in 612 non-frail or pre-frail subjects across five European countries (UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Poland) before and after the administration of a 12-month long MedDiet intervention tailored to elderly subjects (NU-AGE diet).
Results: Adherence to the diet was associated with specific microbiome alterations. Taxa enriched by adherence to the diet were positively associated with several markers of lower frailty and improved cognitive function, and negatively associated with inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein and interleukin-17. Analysis of the inferred microbial metabolite profiles indicated that the diet-modulated microbiome change was associated with an increase in short/branch chained fatty acid production and lower production of secondary bile acids, p-cresols, ethanol and carbon dioxide. Microbiome ecosystem network analysis showed that the bacterial taxa that responded positively to the MedDiet intervention occupy keystone interaction positions, whereas frailty-associated taxa are peripheral in the networks.
Conclusion: 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 ageing.
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