Diet, Disease, and the Microbiome-Harvard Health Blog


People are becoming more and more interested in the human microbiome and its connection with chronic diseases. A new study examines this connection and how the food we eat affects the composition of the microbiome.

The microbiome protects the host and plays a role in disease risk

The microbiome consists of the genes of the tiny organisms (bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms) found in the small and large intestines in the gastrointestinal tract. The normal gut flora-another term for the microbiome-protects its human host. In order for the microbiome to flourish, there must be a proper balance, and healthy species dominate less healthy species.

Scientists do not yet fully understand how the microbiome affects the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many factors, including differences between individuals and individual diets, make this a difficult area to study.

Research investigating the relationship between diet, microbiome and disease risk

But one New research, Published in Natural medicineIt explains these factors and explains how our diet shapes the microbiome and how the microbiome affects our risk of disease.

Researchers studied more than 1,100 individuals who participated in PREDICT 1. The large-scale experiment looked at how individuals respond to food. They use a technique called metagenomic sequencing to identify, classify, measure, and analyze the genetic material in the microbiome of research participants. They also collected detailed long-term dietary intake information from all these people, so they can analyze their eating patterns, including different food groups, food and nutrient intake. In addition, they collected information from study participants about various factors known to affect metabolism and disease risk, including measurements of blood sugar (glucose), cholesterol, and inflammation before and after meals. Finally, they measured the personal health attributes of the study participants, including age, weight, body mass index (BMI), body fat, and blood pressure.

Diet affects the microbiome, and the microbiome affects disease risk

Studies have found that the health of the microbiome is affected by diet, and the composition of the microbiome affects the risk of health outcomes. The results show that specific gut microbes are related to specific nutrients, foods, food groups, and overall diet composition. Changes in the microbiome affected by diet have the greatest impact on health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and general inflammation.

For example, intestinal species supported by less healthy eating patterns (dairy desserts, unhealthy meats, processed foods) are related to measurements of blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation, while blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation are related to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes The higher risk is significantly related. .

In contrast, a more diverse gut microbiome is associated with healthy eating habits (high-fiber vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, nuts, and healthy animal foods such as fish and eggs), and is associated with reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases The method is associated. In addition, studies have found that polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, walnuts, pumpkin, flax and chia seeds, sunflower, safflower and unhydrogenated soybean oil) can produce healthy intestinal bacteria, thereby reducing the risk of chronic diseases. risk.

A minimally processed plant-based diet benefits the microbiome and reduces disease risk

So what do these discoveries mean to us? First, the study shows that eating more unprocessed plant foods-fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains-enables the gut microbiome to flourish. Some animal foods, such as fish and eggs, are also beneficial. Avoid certain animal foods, such as red meat and bacon, dairy products and highly processed foods (even processed plant foods such as sauces, baked beans, fruit juices or sweetened beverages and desserts) to prevent health Intestinal strains of lesser degree multiply in animals. Intestines.

It is important to note that the quality of the food is very important; processed or Ultra-processed plant-based food It has nothing to do with the healthy clusters of gut microbes. When choosing food, in addition to considering whether they are plant or animal food, but also whether they are processed or unprocessed.

It may also be helpful to think in terms of eating patterns rather than individual foods or food groups. The dietary pattern that emphasizes foods that are beneficial to the microbiome is a whole-food, plant-based dietary pattern. These include vegan (no animal products) and egg vegetarian (vegetarian plus eggs) diets. Cooking oil and white fish are the preferred ways to eat cat raw and are also beneficial to the microbiome.

Emphasis on minimally processed plant-based foods allows the gut microbiome to flourish, thereby preventing or reducing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic diseases, and obesity.


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