Lower protein diet associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease
The bacteria whose numbers increased were also found to be what is called ‘keystone’ species. In other words, their presence in adequate quantities is essential to maintaining the stability of the gut microbiome. On the other hand, the other species that are known to be linked to the markers of increased frailty are not vital to the gut ecosystem.
The findings remained constant even after controlling for age, body mass index, and the presence of multiple disease conditions, also though these factors modulate the composition of the gut microbiome.
Secondly, even though the participants came from different countries with obviously different dietary practices, the findings showed that despite the fundamental difference in gut microbiome composition, the final response at 12 months of following this diet remained strikingly similar across national borders.
Again, the time frame of the change in the diet and the microbiome seems to show that the latter is more important in its association with health improvement markers.
The researchers say the microbiome changes are most closely linked to the increase in dietary fiber, which includes additional vitamins and minerals. The micronutrients they found to be increased included vitamins C, B1, B6, B9, iron, copper, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. On the other hand, the controls showed a higher level of saturated fat intake compared to the Mediterranean diet group. Inferences
The investigators inferred that the changes in the microbiome were probably more important in improving the health of the participants on the Mediterranean diet than the diet itself, which may have served as the agent.
They say the study adds support to an exciting principle that “microbiomes of healthy individuals are similar and the unhealthy individuals are each aberrant in their way.”
They computed a “microbiome index’ and examined its associations with the earlier measures of frailty, cognitive function, and inflammation. They found that 10 of the 11 associations in the positive direction (improved health) and many negative associations were replicated or newly discovered. They feel that this shows that the microbiome components are not just indirect reflections of the diet, but independently associated factors linked to indicators of improved health. Implications
Though this study doesn’t prove that the gut microbiome changes cause the reduction in frailty, it does emphasize the role played by the diet in the microbiome composition, which in turn affects the health of the human host.
They postulate, “By protecting the ‘core’ of the gut microbial community, adherence to the diet could facilitate the retention of a stable community state in the microbiome, providing resilience and protecting from changes to alternative states that are found in unhealthy subjects.”
Even though some of the conclusions they reached are inferences rather than directly measured outcomes, they say, “The interplay of diet, microbiome and host health is a complex phenomenon influenced by several factors. While the results of this study shed light on some of the rules of this three-way interplay, several factors such as age, body mass index, disease status, and initial dietary patterns may play a key role in determining the extent of success of these interactions.”
For instance, some older and weaker people may not be able to chew or swallow firm foods like vegetables and some fruits. In such a scenario, the study could help develop useful treatments in the form of live bacterial formulation for ingestion by identifying the bacteria that are associated with healthy aging. This could perhaps serve to delay the onset and progress of frailty. Journal reference:
Ghosh TS, Rampelli S, Jeffery IB, et alMediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries, Gut, Published Online First: 17 February 2020. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654, https://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2020/01/31/gutjnl-2019-319654
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