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Dietary diversity keeps the gut healthy

Posted:  Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Diversity in diet improves gut health

There is a lot of information on how the large colonies of bacteria residing in the gut play a crucial role in health and disease. Now a paper from Louisiana State University sheds light on the impact that dietary diversity can have on the gut microbiome. The study finds that reducing nutrient diversity can adversely affect the richness of the gut microbiome and in turn impact health.

The paper, published in the journal Molecular Metabolism, looks at the relationship between diet, gut microbiome, and health. The gut microbiome is known to produce unique compounds that are needed for the body's metabolism and homoeostasis. The microbiome of healthy people contains a diverse range of species. Contrastingly, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease are associated with diminishing species diversity.

The researchers note that a diet lacking in certain types of food can induce changes in the gut microbiome within a few days and possibly reduce species diversity. This in turn can impact both availability of nutrients and the signalling processes between the gut and the rest of the body. The researchers attribute the reduction in dietary diversity to the changes in farming that have occurred over the past few decades.

The researchers explained the diet-gut microbiome link by citing the example of a compound called phosphatidylcholine, which is richly present in foods such as eggs, shellfish, red meat, milk, and poultry. Gut microbes turn phosphatidylcholine to trimethylamine (TMA), which is subsequently absorbed by the host and converted to trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). The latter compound has been implicated in atherosclerosis, a disease characterised by a hardening and narrowing of arteries. However, a diet comprising balsamic vinegar, red wine, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil could hinder TMA production.

The researchers believe that future treatment of metabolic diseases will probably rely on an improved understanding of the effect of specific dietary components on a person's gut microbiome. "In the future, an adult seeking treatment for obesity may be surveyed about dietary preferences and present a stool specimen,” said the researchers on a concluding note.

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