The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.
The method via which a baby is born has a dramatic impact on its gut bacteria and could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more likely to experience health problems later in life, a new study has found. The study by Wellcome Sanger Institute, UCL, and the University of Birmingham – the largest of its kind – looked at babies’ microbiomes (the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our guts) to see if they formed differently depending on how a baby was born. For the research, samples were taken on a regular basis from the nappies of 600 babies in their first month of life. The results showed that vaginally born babies got most of their first bacteria from their mothers. However, babies born via Caesarean section showed high levels of hospital bugs, with some having as much as 30% of their total microbiomes made up by such bugs. It’s a reality that could explain why babies born by Caesarean section are more susceptible to certain conditions when they are older, like allergies, asthma and type 1 diabetes. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “What surprised me and scared me was the amount of healthcare bugs showing up in these children. “But what excites me is we have an amazing body of data now that we can build on, to think about how to properly establish the human ecosystem, starting at birth.”
Individuals who routinely drink more than one alcoholic beverage every day have an overabundance of bad bacteria and less good bacteria in their mouths, a new study has found. Compared to their non-drinking peers, drinkers have less good, such as Lactobacillales that help protect your gums, and more bad bacteria, such as certain Actinomyces, Bacteroidales, and Neisseria species that can lead to gum disease, heart problems and even some cancers. [Related reading: Regular excess drinking found to shorten life expectancy] Publishing their findings in the science journal Microbiome, the study authors said the acids found in alcoholic drinks could make the oral environment hostile for certain bacteria to grow, hence the lower number of so-called good bacteria. For the study, a group of more than 1,000 individuals had their saliva tested. The group included 270 non-drinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results show that the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, all potentially harmful, as well as fewer Lactobacillales, a family of bacteria associated with a reduction of gum inflammation. Talking about the findings of the study, Jiyoung Ahn, the study's senior investigator and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine, said: "heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases."