Microbiome Resource Center
Microbiome Resource Center
September 30, 2015
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Mediterranean diet benefits gut microbiome, metabolome

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Adhering to a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes was found to be associated with beneficial microbiome and metabolome profiles in a recent study.

“The intestinal microbiome can be considered a useful biomarker of long-term consumption of healthy or unhealthy diets,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, it is important to determine if and to what extent long-term dietary choices can impact on the composition of the microbiota and how this can influence the production of beneficial microbial metabolites.”

The researchers performed a cross-sectional survey of 153 Italian volunteers to evaluate the benefits of a Mediterranean diet based on their gut microbiota and metabolomes. The cohort included equal numbers of vegetarians, vegans and omnivores, 88%, 65% and 33% of whom had medium to high adherence to the Mediterranean dietary pattern, respectively. Daily dietary information was obtained by a 7-day weighed food diary, and fecal and urine samples were collected once per week for 3 weeks for microbiota and metabolome analyses.

They found plant consumption and adherence to the Mediterranean diet were significantly associated with increased levels of fecal short-chain fatty acids. Vegetable-based diets were also associated with increased abundance of Prevotella and fiber-degrading Firmicutes.

Furthermore, they found vegetarian and vegan participants had significantly lower urinary trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) levels, a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease, compared with omnivorous participants (P < .0001), and higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was also associated with lower TMAO levels.

The researchers concluded their study provides “tangible evidence for the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern on gut microbiota and on the beneficial regulation of microbial metabolism towards health maintenance in the host,” adding that “Western omnivore diets are not necessarily detrimental when a certain consumption level of vegetable foods is included. Healthy diets can, therefore, contribute to beneficially modulate host-microbe interactions and to establish effective pathways to prevent disease.” – by Adam Leitenberger

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.