The Mediterranean diet for decades has been considered to be one of the healthiest in the world and now a new study published in the journal Gut found that eating a Mediterranean diet for just one year altered the microbiome of elderly people in ways that improved brain function and aid in longevity.
Eating the Mediterranean diet for just one year altered the microbiome of elderly people
The study found that Mediterranean diet can suppress the production of inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals are often associated with loss of cognitive function. The Mediterranean diet also prevents the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis.
“Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota, which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors of Gut.
Role of the microbiome
Science has shown that as we age, the types and amount of microbes found in the gut are reduced. With poor diet the diversity of bacteria diminishes, and age related inflammation occurs, which can then lead to cancer, neurological disorders and other diseases.
About 60 tons of food pass through the average human’s digestive tract in our lifetime, exposing our insides to billions of different bacteria in addition to those we were born with. Many of those tiny creatures play important roles – both good and bad in how well we absorb nutrients to help with functionality of our energy, metabolism levels, and our immune response. – Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN Health
How the study was conducted
The study was part of a large randomized controlled trial of 1,200 people called the European Project on Nutrition in Elderly People or NU-AGE that began in 2012. In this study the gut microbiome of 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom were analyzed. 323 of them were on a special Mediterranean diet for a year. The rest of the 65- to 79-year-olds were asked to continue to eat as they always did for the same 12 months.
Change occurred within 12 months
While the diet in this study was designed for the elderly, it was based on the Mediterranean principles of eating lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish, and little red meat, sugar and saturated fats.
What happened after a year
After the year was over, those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The loss of bacterial diversity was slowed, and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers were reduced. At the same time there was a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function.
The diet appeared to boost a stable gut ecosystem, and also slowed signs of frailty such as walking speed and hand grip strength. Nationality did not appear to matter. The findings were similar and consistent no matter where the people lived and no matter their age or weight.
Previous publications from the ongoing study found those who followed the diet closely had improved memory and overall cognitive ability as well.
Those who followed the Mediterranean diet long term also reduced the rate of bone loss in people with osteoporosis, and improved blood pressure and arterial stiffness as well.
Mediterranean diet the gold standard
Discovering that the Mediterranean diet could affect the microbiome in a positive way isn’t really surprising; the diet already has a large list of scientific data that supports its benefits.
Meals from the sunny Mediterranean region have also been linked to stronger bones, a healthier heart and longer life. Weight loss is also another advantage.
The Mediterranean diet has won gold medals for reducing the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, dementia, memory loss, depression and breast cancer as well.
The Mediterranean diet
The diet features simple, plant-based cooking, with the majority of each meal focused on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and seeds, with a few nuts and a heavy emphasis on extra virgin olive oil. It’s very low on refined sugar and flour except on rare occasions. Fats other than olive oil are rarely consumed.
Mediterranean diet encourages eating with family and friends
The Mediterranean diet also encourages eating with friends and family, socializing over meals, and mindfully eating your favorite foods. The Mediterranean diet has won first place in the US News and World Report’s “best diet” rankings for three years in a row.
Moving throughout the day
Moving throughout the day and exercise are also a key part of a wholistic Mediterranean diet.
Happy Healthy Lifestyle!
Mediterranean diet scores another win for longevity by improving microbiome
European project on nutrition in elderly people (NU-AGE)
Mediterranean diet: How to start (and stay on) one of the world’s healthiest diets