- The traditional Mediterranean diet could support healthy ageing by improving gut bacteria, according to a new study.
- Researchers found that older adults that switched to a Mediterranean diet for year had a healthier microbiome, less inflammation and better cognitive function than those who ate their usual diet.
- This supports previous research that the diet, high in olive oil, fish, and vegetables, is good for longevity.
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There’s even more evidence that a Mediterranean diet is good for you. It could help protect the health of your gut bacteria (and therefore your overall health) as you age, according to a new study, published February 2020 in Gut, by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Researchers from several universities, led Tarini Shankar Ghosh, senior researcher at the University College Cork in Ireland, looked at the gut bacteria, or microbiomes, of 612 elderly adults from the UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Poland.
About half the participants were assigned a 12-month-long Mediterranean diet high in vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and fish. The other half was asked to eat as they normally did for the 12 month period. The study recorded the profile of gut bacteria of participants at the beginning of the study and one year later.
They found that participants on the Mediterranean diet showed significant improvement in their gut bacteria, as well as better markers of health such as decreased inflammation, improved cognitive function, and few signs of frailty (measured by things like grip strength and walking speed).
These results were consistent despite the fact that participants varied widely in the gut bacteria they started with at the beginning of the study, based on their age, weight, and where they lived.
Researchers believe a diet high in nutrients and fibre is linked to better gut bacteria
Mediterranean foods are rich in nutrients, including fibre, vitamins (especially vitamins C, B1, B6, and B9), and minerals like potassium, iron, and magnesium. Researchers suspect this is what accounts for the improvements in gut bacteria, and that this nutrients help cultivate a healthy environment for beneficial microbes to thrive.
They could also keep the microbiome healthy over time. As humans age, some species of the natural healthy bacteria in the gut begin to die off, reducing the diversity the microbiome. This study found the Mediterranean diet seemed to slow that process, and by doing so, staved off some of the negative side effects of ageing.
In contrast, participants who followed their usual diet tended to consume more saturated fats.
Evidence shows the Mediterranean diet is linked to a longer life, lower risk of disease
This study is supported by previous research connecting the Mediterranean diet to a wealth of health benefits, like protecting against certain types of cancer and cognitive decline.
And it’s been ranked number one for 3 years in a row by a panel of experts for US World News and Report, as well as the one of the best plant-based diets and the easiest to follow. It has also been shown to be good for cardiovascular health and to help prevent and control diabetes.
This latest research could help explain why all these beneficial outcomes are associated with the Mediterranean diet, since science has begun to link the microbiome to many aspects of human health, from obesity and autoimmune disorders to depression and anxiety.
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