Diet, Disease, and Microbiome – Harvard Health Blog

There is a growing interest in the microbiome of the human body and its connection with chronic diseases. A new study examines this link, as well as how the foods we eat affect the composition of our microbiome.

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

The microbiome consists of the genes of tiny organisms (bacteria, viruses and other microbes) that are found in the gastrointestinal tract, primarily in the small and large intestine. The normal gut flora – another term for the microbiome – protects its host. For the microbiome to thrive, there must be the right balance, and healthy species dominate the less healthy ones.

Scientists do not fully understand how the microbiome takes into account the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Many factors, including differences between individual and individual diets, have made this area difficult to study.

The study examines the relationship between nutrition, microbiome and disease risk

But new study, published in Medicine of nature, takes these factors into account and sheds light on how our diet shapes our microbiome and how our microbiome in turn affects disease risk.

The researchers studied more than 1,100 people who took part in PREDICT 1 – a large trial that looked at individual reactions to food. They used a method called metagenomic sequencing to identify, classify, measure, and analyze genetic material from the microbiomes of study participants. They also gathered detailed, long-term food information from all of these people so they could analyze their diet, including the consumption of different groups of foods, foods and nutrients. In addition, they gathered information from study participants about a variety of factors that are known to affect metabolism and disease risk, including 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), fat, and blood pressure.

Diet affects microbiomes, and microbiomes – the risk of disease

Research has shown that microbiome health is affected by diet and that microbiome composition affects the risk of health consequences. The results showed that certain intestinal microbes were associated with certain nutrients, foods, food groups, and overall diet composition. Health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and general inflammation appear to be most affected by changes in the microbiome influenced by diet.

For example, less healthy diets (dairy desserts, unhealthy meats, processed foods) support types of gut that have been linked to blood sugar, cholesterol and inflammation, which are significantly associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. .

In contrast, a more diverse gut microbiome was associated with a healthy diet (high-fiber vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, nuts, and saturated animals such as fish and eggs), and was associated with measurements related to lower risk of some chronic diseases. In addition, the study found that polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, walnuts, pumpkin, flaxseed and chia seeds, sunflower, safflower and non-hydrogenated soybean oils) create healthy bowel types associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease.

A minimally processed plant-based diet is beneficial for the microbiome and reduces the risk of disease

So what do these findings mean for us? First, research has shown that eating more unprocessed plant foods – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains – allows the gut microbiome to develop. Some animal products, such as fish and eggs, are also favorable. Avoiding certain animal products such as red meat and bacon, dairy foods, and highly processed foods (even processed plant foods such as sauces, baked beans, juices, or sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts) prevents colonization of less healthy gut species. intestines.

It is important to note that food quality matters; processed either plant-based food were not associated with the likelihood of intestinal microbial accumulation. When choosing foods, consider whether they are processed or unprocessed, as well as plant foods or animals.

It can also be helpful to think in terms of diets rather than individual foods or groups of foods. A diet that emphasizes foods that are good for the microbiome is a plant-based diet. These include vegan (excluding animal products) and egg-vegetarian (vegetarian and egg) diets. The sandblaster diet, in which fatty and white fish are the chosen meat, is also beneficial for the microbiome.

Emphasizing minimally processed plant foods allows the gut microbiome to develop, providing protection against chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic diseases, and obesity, or reducing risk.


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