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Healthy Food = Robust Microbiome = Vigorous Health

happy-gut-health.-woman-with-smiley-face-next-to-stomach.You’ve heard it before, you are what you eat, but a new global study has found that this saying is especially true when it comes to our microbiome, the trillions of microorganisms in our gut.
Our bodies contain microbes, a lot of them; scientists estimate over 100 trillion in each of us. The vast majority of these reside in the large intestine and consist of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. These microorganisms help our bodies perform many tasks such as digesting food, producing vitamins, and training/strengthening our immune system. What this new study revealed is that the makeup of these organisms is heavily influenced by the food we consume.
The large-scale international study analyzed the diets, microbiomes, and blood markers of more than a thousand people including hundreds of identical and nonidentical twins. Researchers applied metagenomics, the study of genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples, and blood chemical profiling techniques to uncover 30 gut microbes tied with lower and higher risks of diseases. Researchers found that nutrient-rich diets comprised of whole produce gut microbes that are associated with healthier outcomes such as lower risks of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In contrast, diets full of processed foods especially those with added sugar and salt fostered the growth of pathological gut microbes that were associated with worse health outcomes.
Examples of “good” strains found were the microbes Prevotella copri and Blastocystis spp. which are indicators of better glucose control and lower levels of visceral fat—the fat surrounding your organs. These strains were more likely to appear in the guts of people who ate high-fiber plants and minimally processed animal foods including fish and unsweetened yogurt. Additionally, the “good” microbes were tied with lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol.
What is compelling is that the subjects’ gut flora was more strongly determined by the subjects’ diet than their genetics. For instance, only 34% of identical twins share the same gut microbes, and their microbiomes are likely to be vastly different when one twin is obese and the other is lean. Obese individuals have a lower diversity of bacteria, and higher levels of digestive enzymes, making them more efficient at digesting food and storing calories as body fat.
The makeup of our microbiome is predominantly determined by our diet, which is immensely important because:
  • We know specific microbial species in the gut are promoted by certain foods
  • You can directly influence the microbes in your gut by consuming more of these types of foods thereby improving your microbiome, which boosts your overall health
  • By identifying certain microbes in the gut which are linked to biomarkers of metabolic disease, earlier intervention may be possible
Make it a priority to consume more wholesome foods such as broccoli, kale, spinach, and nuts while eliminating or at least minimizing highly refined foods like pasta and doughnuts. This is a simple but effective way to foster a healthy gut flora, which can in turn optimize your health.

In Good Health,

James O'Keefe, MD, FACC