Food groups: effects on intestinal health

A new research found an association between an healthy intestine microbiota and certain eating habits.

The term “intestinal microbiota” describes the billions of microorganisms that live within our intestines. They influence the way we absorb nutrients, the effectiveness of our immune defenses and even our mental state.

As an increasing number of evidence shows, the balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in our intestines influences a much wider range of health factors than scholars believed in the past. These include blood pressure, aging process, allergies, intolerances, bacterial and fungal infections, cystitis and the likelihood of developing anxiety or depression.

To keep our intestine healthy is important not only for digestive health but also for physical and mental well-being.

In light of this, researchers from the Medical Center of the University of Groningen (UMCG) in the Netherlands have decided to examine which diet and which food groups have the most beneficial effects on intestinal health.

So it has been studied in depth the association between diet and intestinal microbiota.

The study led by Laura Bolte of UMCG and her team was presented at the European Gastroenterology Week (UEG) on October 21st, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.

Researchers grouped 160 dietary factors into seven dietary patterns and examined their anti-inflammatory effects in four groups of participants: people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and general population.

Researchers analysed a stool sample from each participant to reconstruct their microbiota and compared it with a survey results examining the intake frequency of certain foods.

The food models have been divided into the following groups:

• vegetable diet

• vegetable proteins

• animal proteins

• low-fat fermented milk

• Mediterranean dietary model (vegetable proteins, bread, legumes, vegetables, fish, nuts and wine)

• bread and legumes plus fish and nuts

• meat, potatoes and sauce, as well as sweets, sugar, fast food and soft drinks

These results identified 61 foods associated with certain microbial populations and 49 correlations between food models and microbial groups.

The study shown that:

• a diet rich in bread, legumes, fish and nuts is associated with a decrease in potentially harmful aerobic bacteria. Increased consumption of these foods is also involved in lower levels of inflammatory markers in stool that are known to increase during intestinal inflammation

• a vegetal origin diet is associated with an increase in bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA, the main source of energy for cells that line the colon). Researchers found a correlation between low levels of SCFA and ulcerative colitis or other inflammatory bowel conditions.

• increased intake of meat, fast food or refined sugar has been associated with a decrease in beneficial bacterial functions and an increase in inflammatory markers

• red wine, legumes, vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish and nuts are associated with a greater abundance of anti-inflammatory bacteria

• animal and plant proteins have shown opposite associations in the intestinal microbiota

• plant proteins have proven to be the main source of vitamins and amino acids (biotin, thiamine, L-ornithine) biosynthesis; they perform beneficial functions such as the decomposition of sugar alcohols and the excretion of ammonium

• vegetable proteins have been associated with an increase in Bifidobacteria (“good”) and a decrease in Blautia and Streptococci (“bad”). Animal proteins have shown an opposite action

• low-fat fermented dairy products were associated with an increase in Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium bifidum, as well as the ability to facilitate the synthesis of peptidoglycan of lactic acid producer bacteria

• in the group that usually drank red wine, a greater presence of Bifidobacterium, useful for fructose fermentation, was found

• a diet with vegetable, vegetable, fruits, cereals, nuts, wine and fish proteins is associated with a greater abundance of Roseburia hominis, Faecalibacterium Prausnitzii and Bifidobacteria and a greater capacity for carbohydrate fermentation

It is interesting to note that wine has also been correlated with a decrease in potentially harmful species, for example, Bacteroides fragilis, Escherichia coli, Coprobacillus and Clostridium bolteae, probably due to the high polyphenol content.

In general, a diet characterized by fruits, nuts, a higher consumption of vegetables and legumes (vegetable proteins) compared to animal proteins, combined with a moderate consumption of animal origin foods such as fish, lean meat, poultry and low-fat fermented dairy products, red wine and a lower intake of red and sweet meats, it is associated with a healthy intestinal ecosystem.

It is important to remember that the intestinal ecosystem can be attacked by many external agents (mainly antibiotics and medications). So it is important to limit its use only when strictly necessary.

It is important to prevent intestinal dysbiosis through a and selective use of probiotics and prebiotics, especially during periods of stress, travel, dietary changes, medications intakes, flu, infections and inflammation.

The results of this study indicate that the modulation of the intestinal microbiome can have a strategic importance for a safe and effective approach to the treatment or management of multiple diseases (not only of the intestinal district).


TOWARDS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS BASED ON THE RELATION BETWEEN FOOD AND THE GUT MICROBIOME COMPOSITION IN 1423 INDIVIDUALS Bolte L, Vich Vila A, Imhann F, Collij V, Peters V, Fu J, Tigchelaar E, Kurilshikov A, Campmans-Kuijpers M, Dijkstra G, Wijmenga C, Zhernakova A, Weersma R.K, Rinse Weersma. University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)

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