In a new study, researchers found that a diet rich in healthy and plant-based foods is linked with the presence and abundance of certain gut microbes that are also linked to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
This finding demonstrates a clear association between specific microbial species in the gut, certain foods, and the risk of some common diseases.
The research was conducted by a team at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and elsewhere.
In the study, the team analyzed the composition of gut microbiomes in over 1,100 participants in the U.K. and the U.S.
They found strong evidence that the microbiome is linked with specific foods and diets, and that, in turn, its composition is also linked to levels of metabolic biomarkers of disease.
Participants who ate a diet rich in healthy, plant-based foods were more likely to have high levels of specific gut microbes.
The makeup of the participants’ gut microbiomes was strongly linked to specific nutrients, foods, food groups, and general dietary indices (overall diet composition).
The researchers also found robust microbiome-based biomarkers of obesity as well as markers for heart disease and impaired glucose tolerance.
For example, having a microbiome rich in Prevotella copri and Blastocystis species was associated with maintaining a favorable blood sugar level after a meal.
Other species were linked to lower post-meal levels of blood fats and markers of inflammation.
The researchers believe that their microbiome data can be used to determine the risk of cardiometabolic disease among people who do not yet have symptoms, and possibly to prescribe a personalized diet designed specifically to improve someone’s health.
One author of the study is Andrew T. Chan, a gastroenterologist, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at MGH.
The study is published in Nature Medicine.
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