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Study shows healthy diet is associated with diverse and health-promoting microbiome

Jan. 27, 2021, 4:30 PM


by Tom Wilemon

Scientists are just beginning to understand the impact of diet on the gut microbiome and how this interaction affects human health, but baselines must first be established to yield answers.

The first large-scale, longitudinal study to evaluate this interaction among Chinese adults indicates that long-term healthy eating yields microbiome diversity and an abundance of fiber-fermenting bacteria.

The study, which was published Jan. 20 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, delved into how individuals’ overall diet quality and intakes of eight food groups — fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, nuts/legume, refined grains, red meat and processed meats — were associated with the gut microbiome, mostly bacteria that inhabit the intestinal tract.

Danxia Yu, PhD

“We found significant associations for a higher diet quality with a more diverse gut microbiome and increased abundance of fiber-fermenting bacteria that can produce short-chain fatty acids, which may, in turn, promote individual’s health,” said Danxia Yu, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the study’s lead author. The researchers also found a positive association of dairy foods intake with Bifidobacterium and an inverse association of processed meats intake with Roseburia.

The researchers analyzed the usual diets of 1,920 men and women, who had enrolled in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study or the Shanghai Men’s Health Study between 1996 and 2006 and who had remained healthy between 2015 and 2018 when they had submitted stool samples, which were tested for the taxonomic composition of gut microbiome. The study of dietary habits spanned a 15-year period.

Prior studies of Western-style diets of people living in the United States and Europe have found that high intakes of animal foods, sugary drinks and saturated fats are associated with low microbiome diversity and production of harmful bacterial metabolites. Plant-based and Mediterranean-style diets have been associated with greater microbiome diversity and beneficial bacterial metabolites.

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