Eating a Mediterranean diet for a year boosts the types of gut bacteria linked to “healthy ageing” and reduces those associated with harmful inflammation in older people, a five-country study indicates.
Causes of ageing
Ageing is associated with deteriorating bodily functions and increasing inflammation, which are common among older people. Previous has suggested that a poor/restrictive diet is common among older people, especially those in long term residential care. The poor/restrictive diet ay reduce the range and types of bacteria in the gut, leading to a higher possibility of getting diseases.
Mediterranean diet and gut bacteria
The researchers analyzed the gut microbiome of 612 people aged 65 to 79 in 5 countries. The participants were asked to eat a Mediterranean diet (323 people) or their usual diet (289 people) for 12 months.
The Mediterranean diet offered to them was rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil and fish and low in red meat and saturated fats, and specially tailored to older people (NU-AGE diet).
The result showed that sticking to the Mediterranean diet for 12 months was associated with beneficial changes to the gut microbiome.
Benefits of the Mediterranean diet
Eating a Mediterranean diet can stem the loss of bacterial diversity. An increase in the types of bacteria can reduce frailty, which was measured through walking speed and hand grip strength. Increasing types of gut bacteria can also improve brain function like memory, and reduce production of potentially harmful inflammatory chemicals.
The changes were largely driven by an increase in dietary fiber and associated vitamins and minerals, specifically C, B6, B9, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and magnesium.
Problem of eating a Mediterranean diet
Older people may have dental problems and/or difficulty swallowing, so it may be impractical for some older people to eat a Mediterranean diet, according to the researchers. But the study still proves that beneficial bacteria are linked to healthy ageing and may be useful in therapeutic applications.