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Foods That May Lead to a Healthier Gut and Better Health


Scientists know that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our gut play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. . But now a large new international study has revealed that the makeup of these microorganisms, collectively called our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat.

By analyzing the diets, health, and microbiomes of more than a thousand people, researchers found that a diet high in nutrient-dense whole foods promoted the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health. But eating a diet high in highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes that were linked to poorer cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers found that what people ate had a more powerful impact on the makeup of their microbiomes than their genes. They also found that a variety of plant and animal foods were linked to a more favorable microbiome.

A critical factor was whether people ate highly processed foods or not. People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs, and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juice, sugary drinks, white bread, refined grains and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health.

“It goes back to the age-old message to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible,” said Dr Sarah E. Berry, a nutrition scientist at King’s College London and co-author of the new study, which has been published. . Monday in natural medicine. “What this research shows for the first time is the link between the quality of the foods we eat, the quality of our microbiomes, and ultimately our health outcomes.”

The findings could one day help doctors and nutritionists prevent or perhaps even treat certain diet-related diseases, allowing them to prescribe personalized diets to people based on the unique makeup of their microbiomes and others. factors.

Numerous studies suggest that there is no one diet that works for everyone. The new study, for example, found that while some foods are generally healthier than others, different people may have vastly different metabolic responses to the same foods, in part because of the types of microbes residing in their guts.

“What we found in our study is that the same diet in two different individuals does not lead to the same microbiome and does not lead to the same metabolic response,” said Dr. Andrew T. Chan, co- author of the study. study and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “There are a lot of variations.”

The new findings come from an international personalized nutrition study called Predict, which is the world’s largest research project designed to examine individual responses to food. Launched in 2018 by British epidemiologist Tim Spector, the study followed more than 1,100 mostly healthy adults in the United States and Britain, including hundreds of identical and non-identical twins.

The researchers collected data on a wide range of factors that influence metabolism and disease risk. They analyzed participants’ diets, microbiomes and body fat. They took blood samples before and after meals to examine their blood sugar levels, hormones, cholesterol levels and inflammation levels. They monitored their sleep and physical activity. And for two weeks, they had them wear continuous glucometers that tracked their blood sugar responses to different meals.

Researchers were surprised to find that genetics played only a minor role in shaping a person’s microbiome. Identical twins were found to share only 34% of the same gut microbes, while unrelated individuals shared about 30% of the same microbes. Instead, the makeup of each person’s microbiome seemed to depend more on what they ate, and the types of microbes in their guts played an important role in their metabolic health.

The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in fiber-rich plants – such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds – as well than minimally processed foods of animal origin such as fish and whole yogurt. They also found clusters of “bad” gut bugs that were common in people who regularly ate highly processed foods. A common denominator among heavily processed foods is that they tend to be very low in fiber, a macronutrient that helps feed good microbes in the gut, the researchers said.

Among the “good” strains of gut microbes were Prevotella copri and Blastocystis, both associated with lower levels of visceral fat, the kind that accumulates around internal organs and increases the risk of heart disease. These microbes also seemed to improve blood sugar control, an indicator of diabetes risk. Other beneficial microbes have been linked to reduced inflammation and lower spikes in blood lipid and cholesterol levels after meals, all of which play a role in cardiovascular health.

The new study was funded and supported by Zoe Global, a health sciences company, as well as the Wellcome Trust, a UK non-profit organization, and several public health groups.

Dr Berry said the findings suggest that by looking at microbiome profiles they can identify people at high risk of developing metabolic diseases and intervene early. She and her colleagues are now planning a clinical trial that will test whether telling people to change specific foods in their diet can change the levels of good and bad microbes in their gut and subsequently improve their health.

“We think there are a lot of small changes people can make that can have a big impact on their health and that could be mediated by the microbiome,” she said.

nytimes Gt

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