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.
Drinking red wine (in moderation) could be good for your gut, according to researchers from the UK. The team from King’s College London says red wine contains compounds that help increase the number of different types of bacteria that live in the gut. The micronutrients, known as polyphenols, are more abundant in red wine vs. beer, cider and white wine, and act as fuel for microbes living inside the bowel. Polyphenols are found in many fruits and vegetables, including the grapes used to make red wine. The researchers say even just one glass of red wine a fortnight can make a difference, but warn that their findings should not be used as an excuse to binge drink. Publishing its research in the journal Gastroenterology, the team said the “friendly” bugs in our gut help keep us healthy. Even small changes in our gut microbiota – the community of bugs that live there – can make us more susceptible to conditions like obesity, heart disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The gut microbiota of people who drink red wine was found to be more diverse than that of those who do not drink wine. Furthermore, the more wed wine consumed, the greater the levels of diversity – although it’s important to note that nobody involved in the trial was a heavy drinker. Speaking about the findings of their research, Dr Caroline Le Roy said: “If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease.”
Do any of your children suck their thumbs? How about bite their nails? While your instinct might be to try and discourage both, a new study has found that thumb-suckers and nail-biters are actually less likely to develop allergies. Reporting their findings in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers say the discovery is due to the hygiene hypothesis - a hypothesis that basically says exposure to germs at an early age strengthens the body's immune system. Among the 1,000 individuals assessed for the study in New Zealand, thumb-sucking and nail-biting between the ages of five and 32 appeared to prevent some allergies. Around one-third of the children were regular thumb-suckers and/or nail-biters, and their likelihood of them having allergies at age 13 to pets and dust mites was about a third lower than children who did not suck their thumbs or bite their nails. Furthermore, this apparent allergy protection stayed with them into adulthood, according to the team from the University of Otago, Dunedin. Speaking about the findings, Allergy UK nurse advisor, Holly Shaw, said: "Research that has been carried out in other countries also adds weight to this theory of the role the environment and gut microbiota play in shaping an individual's potential to develop a food allergy."
Most people get cravings for high-calories foods, such as chocolate and pizza, from time to time. But new research suggests that such cravings can be reduced by consuming a supplement called inulin-propionate ester. Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found that study participants who drank milkshakes containing the gut bacteria-based supplement were less likely to crave high-calorie foods. Presenting their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers said the supplement works by increasing the amount of propionate in the gut - a compound that is released naturally when a person consumes the fibre inulin, which is found in artichokes, bananas and asparagus. Inulin slows digestion, increase fullness and reduces appetite, and it is already used as a dietary supplement today. For the study, the researchers asked a group of 20 healthy men to drink milkshakes. Half of the group's milkshakes contained inulin-propionate ester, while the other half contained just inulin alone. The researchers then showed the men pictures of different foods; some high calorie, some low calorie. The study participants' brain activities were monitored throughout to see how they reacted to the various pictures. The group that drank the milkshakes containing inulin-propionate ester displayed reduced activity in their brains' reward centres - the caudate and the nucleus accumbens (both associated with food cravings) - but only when they were looking at images of high-calorie foods. In addition to being showed the food images, the men were then given equal-sized bowls of pasta and told to eat as much as they wanted. The inulin-propionate ester group consumed around 10% less than their inulin only counterparts. Dr. Douglas Morrison from the University of Glasgow, who co-authored the study, said that the research illustrates how important gut microbiota signals are for regulating appetite and influencing people's food choices.
New research suggests that the impact of dietary fats on our overall health is likely to be affected by the changes they cause in the stomach’s bacteria ecosystem. The findings, which were obtained by studies in mice, show that diets rich in omega-3 fats, such as fish oil, affect the gut’s balance of bacteria differently to diets rich in lard. Senior researcher Professor Fredrik Bäckhed, from the University of Gothenburg’s faculty of Health Sciences, also known as the Sahlgrenska Academy, led the team of European researchers who discovered that changes in gut microbiota are responsible for some of their health benefits. “We wanted to determine whether gut microbes directly contribute to the metabolic differences associated with diets rich in healthy and unhealthy fats,” said first study author Robert Caesar from the University of Gothenburg. And, even though the study was done in mice, he said: “our goal is to identify interventions for optimising metabolic health in humans.” Writing in the journal Cell Metabolism, Bäckhed’s team said they obtained their results by feeding either lard or fish oil to a group of mice for a period of 11 weeks. They then monitored the metabolic health of the study mice and found that dietary fat is a major community structure driver, which in turn affects the composition and diversity of gut microbiota. “We were surprised that the lard and the fish oil diet, despite having the same energy content and the same amount of dietary fibre—which is the primary energy source for the gut bacteria—resulted in fundamentally different gut microbiota communities and that the microbiota per se had such large effects on health,” said Bäckhed. Increased lard consumption promoted the growth of Bilophila, bacteria often linked to gut inflammation. In contrast, the fish oil diet increased the growth of Akkermansia muciniphila, bacteria known to reduce weight gain and improve glucose metabolism in mice. The bottom line is that eating a diet rich in fish oils is, as the study suggests, going to help you lose weight, compared to a diet rich in lard.
A new study has found that the essential vitamin B12 could trigger outbreaks of acne in susceptible people. The essential nutrient, which is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, is thought to alter the activity of skin bacteria and that leads to spots and pimples appearing on the skin. Now you may be thinking that this sounds familiar and that’s because vitamin pills have long been associated with acne flare-ups, but until now this phenomenon remained unexplained. It’s hoped that the findings of the research will now lead to the development of new acne treatments and reveal more about why some people develop spots when they take vitamin B12 supplements. The study found that the vitamin affects the metabolism of the bacteria that causes acne. As a result, it secretes an inflammatory compound which triggers spots. The US-based team, led by Dr Huiyang Li, from the University of California, reported their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine: “Our findings suggest a new bacterial pathogenesis pathway in acne and provide one molecular explanation for the long-standing clinical observation that vitamin B12 supplementation leads to acne development in a subset of individuals. “Our study... provided evidence that... interactions between the host and the skin microbiota play essential roles in disease development.” Photo credit: Zliving