We all know that eating a healthy diet is good for us. But new research is showing just how these foods keep us healthy. It seems the key may be gut health.
NPR’s Allison Aubrey recently reported on a study from the latest issue of Nature magazine. The study, led by Paul O’Toole of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork in Ireland, analyzed the relation of gut bacteria to the health of 178 people, most of them 70-90 years old.
There were two different groups of people studied – one group lived in their own homes and ate a diet full of fiber, fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry and fish. The other group lived in long-term care facilities or nursing homes and ate a much more restricted diet, which included mashed potatoes, porridge, puddings, cookies, and sweetened drinks like tea.
“O’Toole’s team found that people living independently, who had the most diverse diets, also had more varied gut bacteria. And they also scored better on clinical tests measuring frailty and cognitive function. In other words, ‘they were healthier older people,’ says O’Toole.”
While there may be many factors influencing the results of the clinical tests, O’Toole thinks diet is key. And other scientists agree.
“‘What we’re only now beginning to realize is that there’s very close interaction between the bacteria within GI tract and human health and disease,’ says Ilseung Cho, a gastroenterologist at NYU School of Medicine.”
While this study does not prove a direct correlation between diverse gut bacteria and better health, it does establish a link between the two. Perhaps further studies will prove this connection between gut health and overall health. Until then, keep eating your fruits and veggies!