Certain foods and nutrients are linked to higher levels of helpful gut bacteria that are known to reduce inflammation and protect your gut lining, according to a new study published in the journal Gut.
While this study didn’t specifically look at glucose levels or people with diabetes, the role of gut bacteria in diabetes — both type 1 and type 2 — is an important ongoing area of research. One recent study found that the composition of gut bacteria was tied to a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while another found that specific gut bacteria were linked to the future risk of developing type 1 diabetes. And an older study found that in people with type 2, taking the drug metformin changes people’s gut bacteria profile in beneficial ways that lead to lower blood glucose levels.
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For the latest study, researchers looked at the relationship between 173 separate dietary factors — specific foods and nutrients that people consumed in their diet — and gut bacteria profiles in 1,425 participants. The participants fell into four different groups: those with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, and the general population. Each of these three digestive disorders is linked to gut inflammation, and the researchers were interested in how food choices affected levels of gut bacteria that are linked to higher or lower levels of inflammation in the digestive tract. Participants’ diets were tracked through detailed food frequency questionnaires, and their gut bacteria was profiled using genomic sequencing (DNA analysis of a stool sample).
The researchers identified 38 different relationships between consumption of nutrients or foods and “clusters” of gut bacteria, or distinct patterns that could be identified in levels of various species of bacteria. What’s more, 61 specific foods and nutrients were linked to 61 actual species of gut bacteria. Overall, processed foods and many animal-derived foods were linked to bacterial species known to promote inflammatory pathways in the gut, while plant-based foods and fish were linked to bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids, known to help reduce gut inflammation and effectively metabolize nutrients, and also known to help protect the mucosal lining inside the intestines.
“We identified dietary patterns that consistently correlate with groups of bacteria with shared functional roles in both health and disease,” the researchers noted. “Moreover, specific foods and nutrients were associated with species known to infer mucosal protection and anti-inflammatory effects.” Future research, they wrote, should continue to explore how different dietary patterns affect gut bacteria in ways that promote or reduce inflammation.
Want to learn more about the role of gut bacteria in health? Read “Diabetes and the Microbiome.”
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