An anti-inflammation diet might help fight chronic disease, perhaps by changing the gut bacteria. In the past 20 years, research has discovered that the genes of bacteria that live in our gut (the gut microbiome) can affect our health. A study published Feb. 17, 2020, in the journal Gut compared the gut microbiome of about 600 older adults (ages 65 to 79) assigned to either a Mediterranean-style diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish and low in red meat and saturated fats — or to a regular diet. Many previous studies have found that people who regularly consume the Mediterranean diet have lower rates of bowel cancer, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and other diseases. The question this study addressed was whether these lower rates of disease might result from changes in the gut microbiome. Among people assigned to the Mediterranean diet, there was indeed reduced inflammation. In addition, the gut microbiome was changed in ways that previous studies have shown is associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, and cell damage, and associated with improved thinking skills. Finally, the gut microbiome reverted to a less healthy profile after people stopped the Mediterranean diet. Thus, the study suggests that the beneficial health effects of this diet may be due, in part, to changes in the gut microbiome.
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