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10 Health Benefits Of Kimchi

Health benefits of kimchi include an improved heart health and a healthy digestive system. The wealth [1] of antioxidants in it exercise healing effects in medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity, atopic dermatitis, and gastric ulcers. This flavonoid and probiotic-rich food delays aging, regulates cholesterol levels, and boosts the immune system.

Nutritional Value Of Kimchi

Kimchi is a low-calorie, high fiber, and nutrient-packed [3] side dish. It is a storehouse of a range of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin C. It is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, and selenium. It has an impressive assortment of powerful antioxidants and provides an additional benefit of probiotics as well in the form of lactobacillus bacteria. It contains numerous helpful components including capsaicin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, flavonoids, and isothiocyanates and has a low amount of fat and sugar.

Health Benefits Of Kimchi

The delectable taste of kimchi, which has been admired globally comes with a super bonus of health benefits attributing to a range of qualitative evidence supported by several pieces of research. The major health benefits have been discussed below.

Promotes Digestion

Kimchi is an excellent food to promote [4] digestion. It is a source of probiotics attributing to the process of fermentation involved in its preparation. The process of fermentation not only enhances the taste but also creates healthy bacteria, Lactobacillus, which is required by the body to keep a healthy state of intestinal flora. It is made from [5] cabbage which is already well known for its detoxification qualities and helps the body in getting rid of the wastes and toxins. It aids in cleaning up the intestines and stimulates better assimilation of nutrients in the body. Fiber content present in kimchi also assists in stabilizing the bowel movements and prevents constipation.kimchi

Regulates Cholesterol

Regular consumption [6] of kimchi has a beneficial effect on the levels of cholesterol. Garlic, which is used to prepare it is rich in selenium and allicin. Allicin is an eminent component which helps in lowering the cholesterol levels, thereby, reducing the risk of developing cardiac disorders such as strokes and heart attacks. Selenium also exerts a protective effect on the artery walls by preventing the build-up of plaque and decreasing the threat of atherosclerosis. An investigative study [7] has advocated that fermented kimchi helps in lowering the total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol along with the concentration of blood glucose in the body.

Antioxidant Properties

Kimchi varieties are rich in powerful [8]antioxidants which are natural scavengers. These antioxidants along with phenols and flavonoids present in it exert a protective effect against oxidative damage and shield the body from the harmful effects of oxygen free radicals.

Treats Atopic Dermatitis

The presence of lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi makes it a multi-talented condiment. It extends its therapeutic effects on various skin ailments such as atopic dermatitis which is characterized by increased levels of immunoglobulin E and skin lesions such as edema and hemorrhage. A study [9] conducted in this regard has shown that healthy bacteria present in fermented kimchi exerts suppressive effects on mite-induced dermatitis and helps in reducing inflammation.

Weight Loss

Kimchi is a source of healthy lactobacillus bacteria which the body utilizes for its healthy functioning. This good bacterium also assists in weight loss by controlling the appetite and reducing the blood sugar levels. The fiber content present in it keeps your body full and your hunger satisfied for a longer duration preventing you from overeating. A study [10] conducted on obese patients has validated the favorable effects of fermented kimchi on the body with respect to body mass index (BMI) and body fat, which helps in reducing the development of factors implicated in metabolic syndrome.

Boosts Immune System

The multi-nutrient packed kimchi is rich in a range of flavonoids and phenolic components. The variety of ingredients including ginger, garlic, and peppers involved in the preparation of kimchee are super protectors which are renowned for their beneficial effect on the immune system. They help in fighting infections and are valuable in curing cold and flu symptoms.

Anti-aging Properties

Another valuable benefit provided by kimchi is its anti-aging qualities, which can be attributed to the presence of antioxidants and vitamin C. A study [12] evaluating the anti-aging activity of kimchee has revealed that it helps in regulating and attenuating the inflammation that speeds up the aging process. The same study also showed promising results with regard to factors like reduced oxidative stress in the cells, inhibition of lipid peroxidation and extended lifespan in the subjects, making kimchi a potent anti-aging component.

Prevents Cancer

Kimchi is a valuable food which helps in reducing the risk of development of various cancers. A study [13] performed on its samples has validated its anti-cancer properties. Cabbage present in it contains healthy flavonoids which are known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Other powerful cancer fighters present in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage are glucosinolates. Glucosinolates break down to form isothiocyanates which are well-known for their effectiveness against cancerous cell growth.

kimchi

 

Treats Diabetes

A study [14] conducted on high-fat-diet-fed type-2 diabetics who were given kimchi revealed the anti-diabetic properties of this Korean delicacy. The study showed better glucose tolerance and lower levels of fasting glucose after eating a kimchi-containing diet in the diabetics. It also suggested that this Korean delicacy can prove more useful in diabetes if it is eaten with a normal or low-fat diet instead of high-fat food.

Reduces Gastric Ulcers

Kimchee exerts therapeutic [15] effects in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. A study conducted in this regard has shown that the antagonistic activity of kimchi attributes to the abundance of Lactobacillus bacteria which inhibit the harmful pathogens from connecting to the human gastric cancer cells.

Culinary Uses

Kimchi is prepared and enjoyed in many varieties. It makes an excellent side dish or pre-meal appetizer. It can also be added to soups, stews or rice dishes. Kimchee serves deliciously well even as a topping on sandwiches or with pancakes.

Other Uses

Various studies [16] have proven the effectiveness of kimchi in curing avian influenza or bird flu virus and many other viral diseases affecting the poultry.

How To Prepare Kimchi?

Kimchi can be prepared in different ways depending on one’s taste and preference. There are many types available which are made using vegetables including Chinese cabbage, leek, scallion, radish, cucumber, ginseng, garlic, cayenne peppers, and Indian mustard leaves. These vegetables are mixed with desired spices and seasonings and kept for fermentation for specified days under favorable conditions.

Side Effects Of Kimchi

Digestive Health: Excess consumption of kimchi can lead to digestive problems. Research [19] conducted in this regard has suggested that too much of it may aggravate the risk of developing gastric cancer. Due to fermentation, kimchi is abundant in fiber which may cause gas and bloating issues in susceptible individuals. It is advisable, to begin with adding small quantities of kimchi in the diet in order to assess its effects.

Cardiac Functions & High Blood Pressure: Individuals suffering from high blood pressure should be cautious while eating kimchi because of the presence of high salt concentration, which gets further accentuated during the fermentation process. However, a study [20] conducted on hypertensive subjects revealed that even under the conditions of hypertension, eating low-sodium kimchi may not exert harmful effects on the blood pressure and cardiac activities. It is always advisable to consult a medical professional before considering it for therapeutic usage.

Summary

Kimchi possesses [21] anti-mutagenic, anti-bacterial, and anti-carcinogenic properties. The American health magazine [22] has ranked it among the world’s five healthiest foods. The wealth of strong antioxidants and healthy bacteria in kimchi encourages the production of collagen which aids in improving skin elasticity, delaying skin aging, and promoting healthy and youthful skin. Lactobacillus bacteria present in it is valuable for yeast infections. It combats nutrient depletion, builds stamina, and serves as a delicious and nutritious condiment.

References

  1. http://www.actahort.org/books/483/483_47.htm
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/world/asia/24kimchi.html?_r=0
  3. http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/24/1_MeetingAbstracts/340.6
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21215484
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23633413/?i=3&from=/23788520/related
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23444963
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23444963/?i=6&from=/23788520/related
  8. http://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=KR2008003825
  9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2011.04981.x/abstract
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21745625
  11. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=uV2Oi0g_TB4C
  12. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10068-011-0091-9
  13. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/10966200360716544
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19459728
  15. https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Gastritis_and_Peptic_Ulcer_Disease_Caused_by_Helicobacter_pylori
  16. http://www.asiabiotech.com/publication/apbn/09/english/preserved-docs/0907/0272_0277.pdf
  17. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=eqkYpqkYPngC
  18. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=s4_w572f1MgC
  19. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/In-Korea-everybody-loves-kimchi-especially-2496596.php
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3439575/
  21. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1011921427581
  22. http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20410300,00.html
February 14, 2018  

source: OrganicFacts
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Is Chronic Mouthwash Use Endangering Your Beneficial Bacteria?

New study out of the journal Nitric Oxide links mouthwash use to diabetes.

It sounds like one of those spurious correlations that show up whenever you sift through large piles of data, such as the supposed link between cheese consumption and death from bedsheet strangulation.

But the results of a new epidemiological study linking mouthwash use and diabetes risk are – to all appearances, at least – a real effect, with fascinating implications for our understanding of the complex links between health, athletic performance and the trillions of bacterial cells that inhabit our bodies. A cleaner mouth, it turns out, isn’t always better.

The new study, which appears in the December issue of the journal Nitric Oxide, analyzes data from a longitudinal study of 945 adults in Puerto Rico who were followed over a period of three years. Just less than half of the participants reported using mouthwash regularly, and those who gargled at least twice a day were roughly 50-per-cent more likely to develop prediabetes or diabetes than those who used it less frequently or not at all.

“Most over-the-counter mouthwashes contain antibacterial ingredients,” explains Dr. Kaumudi Joshipura, an epidemiologist at the University of Puerto Rico and Harvard University who led the study, “which could destroy or inhibit oral microbes, some of which may be beneficial for metabolic health.”

This is an idea that’s already familiar to elite endurance athletes. Over the past decade, beet juice has emerged as a powerful and ubiquitous performance enhancer, because it enables muscles to consume less oxygen during exercise. The key component of beet juice is nitrate, which is converted by bacteria in the mouth to nitrite, which is in turn converted to nitric oxide, a powerful signalling molecule with wide-ranging beneficial effects in the body.

Earlier studies had already shown that mouthwash, by killing the bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite, breaks this chain reaction and negates the immediate performance benefits of beet juice. It also wipes out acute gains in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. But the new Puerto Rican study is the first to extend these findings to chronic health effects measured outside the laboratory. Since nitric oxide plays a role in determining how muscles use glucose, Joshipura hypothesizes that it is loss of oral bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite that leads to higher diabetes risk in heavy mouthwash users.

It’s tempting, then, to wonder how we can nurture the “good” nitrate-converting bacteria while suppressing the “bad” oral bacteria that contribute to gum disease, bad breath and tooth decay. But it’s not that simple, says Dr. Anni Vanhatalo, an exercise physiology researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain who studies dietary nitrate but wasn’t involved in the new study.

“It’s about a balance,” she says. “We have around 700 species of bacteria in our mouths, most or all of which have the potential to be pathogenic in large numbers. In that sense there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ bacteria.”

That’s similar to our emerging understanding of the complexity of gut bacteria, where greater diversity, rather than any particular superbug, is associated with better health. And chronic mouthwash use, Vanhatalo says, can be likened to the effect of antibiotics on gut bacteria. “Few would contemplate going on antibiotics permanently,” she says, “while more than 20 per cent of Americans use mouthwash daily.”

Where is the ideal balance? Vanhatalo suggests that brushing your teeth with toothpaste twice a day is about right. Joshipura notes that the people in her study who reported using mouthwash just once a day didn’t have any elevated risk of prediabetes or diabetes, but adds that further evidence is needed to make recommendations.

“People with specific oral conditions may need to use mouthwash as prescribed, usually for short duration,” Joshipura says. “However, we are concerned that mouthwash is often used routinely long-term in the absence of specific oral needs, without awareness of potential long-term effects.”

Finally, if all this sounds a little gloomy, it’s worth concluding on a more positive note. The negative effects of blocking nitrate conversion are, in a way, a reminder of all the benefits you can get from nitrate-rich foods – in addition to beets, leafy greens like arugula and spinach are very high in nitrates, as are rhubarb and celery – if you don’t block them.


Alex Hutchinson’s new book, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, will be published in February. Follow him on Twitter @sweatscience.

ALEX HUTCHINSON        SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL       JANUARY 14, 2018


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Fun Fact Friday

 

  • It’s ok and “I’m fine” are the two most common lies spoken in the world.

  • Marijuana was initially made illegal in 1937 by a man who testified the drug made white women want to be with black men.

 

  • Giving up alcohol for just one month can improve liver function, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of liver disease and diabetes.

  • Research has shown that people are happiest at 7:26pm on Saturday evening.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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Health Benefits of Stevia, The Sugar Substitute

The Stevia plant with its ‘sweet leaf’ is a sugar substitute and also incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response and actually nourishes the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar. The leaf is 30 times sweeter than sugar, while extracts are 300-400 times sweeter. This is good for the sugar addict as it will give sweetness without all the negative effects of sugar.

5 SWEET BENEFITS OF STEVIA

Excellent for Diabetics

Type 2 diabetic patients who took 1 gram of stevioside (present in the plant Stevia) with a meal had an 18 percent reduction in blood sugar according to this study. A study that compared Stevia, regular sugar and aspartame, showed that Stevia lowered blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.

Note: Artificial sweeteners often raise your blood sugar levels even more than sugar.

Reduces Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Stevia has sterols and antioxidant compounds (kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin and isosteviol) in it and studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

Helps Lower Bad Cholesterol and Increase Good Cholesterol

A study in 2009 found stevia helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Research also noted that the subjects had no adverse side effects from the Stevia on their health.

Breast Cancer Reduced

This 2012 study found that stevioside helped to decrease specific stress pathways that create breast cancer growth.

Great for Weight Loss

Stevia has no calories or carbohydrates.

Consuming added sugars has been shown to contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in the American diet. This high sugar intake has been linked to weight gain and adverse effects on blood sugar.

3 Extra Benefits:

 

  • Fights Cavities: The ‘sweet herb’ is antibacterial, and unlike sugar, it does not feed oral bacteria and is recommended by the National Center for Biotechnology Information to be helpful in preventing cavities. Stevia extracts were linked to less acidic plaque, which is good for cavity prevention.
  • Skin Care: The antibacterial properties help with acne. I have experienced a pimple disappearing soon after using stevia on it.
  • Fights Yeast Infections: Stevia does not feed candida or other yeast and is slightly antibacterial and anti-fungal.

 

Can One Be Allergic to Stevia?

The European Food Safety Committee after reviewing the Stevia literature stated that there was no cause for concern for allergic reactions to the Stevia plant. Also, the FDA declared that stevia was safe in foods and beverages.

Stevia Caution

Some Stevia extracts are so isolated that they have a bitter taste and so other artificial sweeteners have to be added.

Some commercial Stevias have been extracted solely with alcohol solvents (usually the white powder form). This alcohol solvent leaves the sweet taste of the Stevia but can take away some of the health benefits.

Highly processed “Stevia,” such as Truvia, is not real Stevia by the time it goes through refining. Chemical solvents are added during the refining process which includes acetonitrile, found to be toxic to the liver and a carcinogen.

By: Diana Herrington         April 17, 2017
Follow Diana at @DancinginLife


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The Truth About Nitrates

Have you ever wondered what nitrates are and what foods contain nitrates? Are nitrates linked to any health concerns? If you have questions about nitrates and their role in the food supply, read on to get the truth about nitrates.

What are nitrates?

Nitrates (or nitrites) are natural chemicals that are found in the soil, air and water. Nitrates are also used as a food additive to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavour and colour of foods.

Where are nitrates found?

Nitrates are naturally found in vegetables such as:

  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes and
  • Spinach

These foods provide the most nitrates in our diets. However, there is no recommendation to limit vegetables that naturally contain nitrates.

Smaller amounts are found in:

  • Dairy products like cheese
  • Beef
  • Poultry and
  • Fish

Nitrates are added to these foods to make their appearance and flavour more appealing.

Generally speaking, Canadian’s average daily intake of foods that contain nitrates is within safe limits.

What about nitrates and processed meat? 

Nitrates are added to processed meat like:

  • Deli meat/cold cuts
  • Ham/Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs/Wieners

This is done to preserve the product and prevent bacteria from growing. Nitrates also give processed meats their pink colour.

Should I avoid processed meat?

Yes. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

deli-meat

Do organic foods have nitrates?

It depends on the food. Organic foods like vegetables and fruit typically have fewer nitrates compared to conventional foods.

However, processed organic meats do not have nitrates.  In Canada, adding nitrates to processed organic meats is not allowed. Read more about organic foods in Canada.

Tips on making nitrate-free food choices 

  • Avoid foods with ingredients like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate.
  • Avoid foods with the words ‘cured’ or ‘smoked’ on the ingredient list. This means that the food may contain nitrates.
  • Avoid processed meat or have them once in awhile. Have a cooked ham during the holidays or an occasional hot dog in the summer.
  • Skip the bacon and sausage for breakfast and try fresh fruit or grilled vegetables with your eggs.
  • Stuck on lunch ideas? Think beyond the sandwich! Try a vegetable wrap with hummus instead of a deli sandwich.  Try other quick and easy lunch ideas for you and your kids.
  • Eat vegetarian more often. You might be surprised at how tasty it can be! Learn more about healthy vegetarian meals for you and your family.
  • Throwing a party? Avoid party sandwiches that use processed meats and instead try a variety of fresh salads with an assortment of flat breads and dips.

Bottom line 

Nitrates are naturally found in some vegetables, dairy products and meat. There is no recommendation to limit foods that naturally contain nitrates. Nitrates are also added to processed meats as a preservative. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

October 9, 2016
 

 

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Does the sodium nitrate in processed meat increase my risk of heart disease?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk.

It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.

And you already know that most processed meats are high in sodium and some are high in saturated fat, which can disrupt a heart-healthy diet.

If you eat meat, it’s best to limit processed meat and instead choose lean, fresh meat and poultry, and keep serving sizes small. For greater heart health, consider going one step further and increasing the amount of seafood in your diet.

With Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
 


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A Gut Makeover for the New Year

If you’re making resolutions for a healthier new year, consider a gut makeover. Refashioning the community of bacteria and other microbes living in your intestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, could be a good long-term investment in your health.

Trillions of microbial cells inhabit the human body, outnumbering human cells by 10 to one according to some estimates, and growing evidence suggests that the rich array of intestinal microbiota helps us process nutrients in the foods we eat, bolsters the immune system and does all sorts of odd jobs that promote sound health. A diminished microbial ecosystem, on the other hand, is believed to have consequences that extend far beyond the intestinal tract, affecting everything from allergies and inflammation, metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity, even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Much of the composition of the microbiome is established early in life, shaped by forces like your genetics and whether you were breast-fed or bottle-fed. Microbial diversity may be further undermined by the typical high-calorie American diet, rich in sugar, meats and processed foods. But a new study in mice and people adds to evidence that suggests you can take steps to enrich your gut microbiota. Changing your diet to one containing a variety of plant-based foods, the new research suggests, may be crucial to achieving a healthier microbiome.

Altering your microbiome, however, may not be easy, and nobody knows how long it might take. That’s because the ecosystem already established in your gut determines how it absorbs and processes nutrients. So if the microbial community in your gut has been shaped by a daily diet of cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza, for example, it won’t respond as quickly to a healthy diet as a gut shaped by vegetables and fruits that has more varied microbiota to begin with.

“The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, the senior author of the new paper and director of the Center for Genome Science and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Nutritional components of a healthy diet have to be viewed from “the inside out,” he said, “not just the outside in.”

One of the questions the study set out to answer was how individuals with different diets respond when they try to improve their eating habits. The scientists harvested gut bacteria from humans, transplanted them into mice bred under sterile conditions, and then fed the mice either American-style or plant-based diets. The scientists then analyzed changes in the mice’s microbial communities.

Of interest, the scientists harvested the gut bacteria from people who followed sharply different diets. One group ate a fairly typical American diet, consuming about 3,000 calories a day, high in animal proteins with few fruits and vegetables. Some of their favorite foods were processed cheese, pepperoni and lunch meats.

love-your-gut

The other group consisted of people who were devotees of calorie restriction. They ate less than 1,800 calories a day and had meticulously tracked what they ate for at least two years, sticking to a mostly plant-based diet and consuming far less animal protein than the other group, a third fewer carbohydrates and only half the fat.

This calorie-restricted group, the researchers found, had a far richer and more diverse microbial community in the gut than those eating a typical American diet. They also carried several strains of “good” bacteria, known to promote health, that are unique to their plant-based diet. “Their choices as adults dramatically influenced their gut community,” said Nicholas W. Griffin of Washington University, the paper’s lead author.

The study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, is not the first to report findings suggesting dietary shifts can induce persistent changes in a gut microbial community, said Dr. David A. Relman, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, who was not involved in the current research. He noted that other studies had found even more profound effects.

After the human microbiota was transplanted into the mice, the mice got to eat either like typical Americans or like the calorie restrictors.

Mice that had a microbiota conditioned by the typical American diet had a weaker response to the plant-based diet. Their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much. “They all responded in a predictable direction, but with not as great a magnitude,” said Dr. Griffin.

Another aspect of the study suggests the company you keep may also enrich your gut microbiota — at least in mice. At first the animals were kept in separate cages. Then, when they were housed together, the microbes from the communities conditioned by plant diets made their way into the American-diet microbiome.

It’s not clear how that translates to humans: Mice eat one another’s droppings when they live together, so they easily share the bacterial wealth. Still, it’s possible humans have other ways of sharing bacteria, Dr. Griffin said. “We know from previous work and other studies that spouses who live together will develop microbial communities that are similar to each other,” he said.

Perhaps the best way to cultivate a healthier microbiome is to eat more fiber by consuming more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts or seeds, said Meghan Jardine, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the current study but has published articles on promoting a healthy microbiota. (She is also affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which recommends a plant-based diet.) She urges people to aim for 40 to 50 grams of fiber daily, well above levels recommended by most dietary guidelines.

“When you look at populations that eat real food that’s high in fiber, and more plant-based foods, you’re going to see they have a more robust microbiota, with more genetic diversity, healthier species and fewer pathogenic bacteria living in the gut,” she said.

By RONI CARYN RABIN     DEC. 29, 2016