The Mediterranean Diet is well known to be good for the heart, but a new study shows that it can also benefit a healthy gut. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, found that eating a Mediterranean Diet significantly increased the good bacteria in the guts of monkeys, compared to a Western diet.
The Mediterranean Diet is often considered one of the healthiest of diets. It is high in fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes, nuts, fish and poultry. The study that was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that the monkeys that ate a diet consisting of fish oil, olive oil, butter, eggs, fish meal, wheat flour, black and garbanzo bean flour, fruit puree, vegetable juice and sucrose had a 7% increase in the abundance of “good” bacteria in their gut. The monkeys that ate a Western diet, which consisted of lard, butter, cholesterol, eggs, beef tallow, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, only had a 0.5 % increase in “good “bacteria.
The “good” bacteria (primarily lactobacillus), most of which are probiotic, were significantly increased in the Mediterranean diet group. Lactobacillus can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off “bad” organisms that might cause diarrhea and other diseases. Aside from in the digestive tract, lactobillus can also be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, and dietary supplements.
According to the researchers, the results of this study will be useful for further studies aimed at understanding the diet-microbiome-health interactions in humans, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and psychiatric disorders.
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