Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

Targeting Gut Bacteria May Be The Key To Preventing Alzheimer’s

Diet could be a powerful mode of prevention.

A new study suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

Mounting research continues to show the links between the health of the gut and that of the brain. Now, a new study from Lund University in Sweden finds that unhealthy intestinal flora can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The report, published Feb. 8 in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different gut bacterial profile than those that do not have the disease.

The gut microbiome is highly responsive to dietary and lifestyle factors. This suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

“Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it,” study author Dr. Frida Fak Hållenius, associate professor at the university’s Food for Health Science Centre, told The Huffington Post. “Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”

In the new study, Hållenius and her colleagues revealed a direct causal association between gut bacteria and signs of Alzheimer’s in mice. When a group of bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of rodents with Alzheimer’s, they developed brain plaques indicative of Alzheimer’s. When the bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of the healthy rodents, however, they developed significantly fewer brain plaques.

Beta-amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain are a central marker of the disease. These sticky protein clumps accumulate between the brain’s neurons, disrupting signals and contributing to the gradual killing off of nerve cells.

“We don’t yet know how bacteria can affect brain pathology, we are currently investigating this,” Hållenius said. “We think that bacteria may affect regulatory T-cells in the gut, which can control inflammatory processes both locally in the gut and systemically ― including the brain.”

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.

The gut microbiome is intimately connected with the immune system, since many of the body’s immune cells are found in this area of the stomach, Hållenius added.

Anything that happens in the digestive tract can affect the immune system, she explained. “By changing the gut microbiota composition, you affect the immune system of the host to a large extent.”

The findings suggest that Alzheimer’s may be more more preventable than health experts previously thought. The composition of bacteria in the gut is determined by a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors. Diet, exercise, stress and toxin exposure all play a huge role in the gut’s bacterial makeup.

Now, the researchers can begin investigating ways to prevent the disease and delay its onset by targeting gut bacteria early on. And in the meantime, anyone can adopt a plant-based, whole foods diet and probiotic supplementation as a way to improve the health of their microbiome.

“The diet shapes the microbial community in the gut to a large extent, so dietary strategies will be important in prevention of Alzheimer’s,” Hållenius said. “We are currently working on food design that will modulate the gut microbiota towards a healthier state.”

The study is far from the first to show a connection between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s. In a 2014 paper published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, researchers listed 10 different ways that the microbiome may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including fungal and bacterial infections in the intestinal tract and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

“The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated,” that study’s authors wrote.

By Carolyn Gregoire      Feb 21, 2017
 


Leave a comment

Strawberries Remain at Top of Pesticide List, Report Says

An annual report by the Environmental Working Group found that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues. That’s down 6.6 percentage points from last year.

The EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, released Wednesday, ranks pesticide contamination of popular fruits and vegetables based on more than 36,000 samples of produce tested by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

This year, strawberries remained at the top of the list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides, while sweet corn and avocados were ranked as having the lowest concentration.

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are widely used in producing food to control pests such as insects, rodents, weeds, bacteria, mold and fungus. In addition to their uses in agriculture, pesticides are used to protect public health by controlling organisms that carry tropical diseases, such as mosquitoes.

Pesticides are potentially toxic to humans, according to the World Health Organization. They may have negative effects on reproduction, immune or nervous systems, cause cancer and lead to other problems.

Pesticide residue can remain on fruits and vegetables even after they are washed and, in some cases, peeled, according to the report.

However, a report by the USDA in 2014 found that “overall pesticide chemical residues on foods tested were at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency” and were not a safety concern to consumers.

The Dirty Dozen

Produce that tested positive for various pesticides and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce is featured on the list, known as the “Dirty Dozen.”

Starting with the highest amounts of pesticide residue, the list features strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.
Strawberries remained at the top of the list with at least 20 pesticides, while spinach jumped into the second spot with twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

Americans eat nearly 8 pounds of fresh strawberries per person each year, and even when they are rinsed in the field and washed before eating, they are still most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group.

In 2016, spinach was ranked eighth, but the latest numbers from the USDA showed a sharp increase in pesticide residues on non-organic spinach since the crop was last tested eight years ago.

The pesticides responsible for the residues included three fungicides and one insecticide called permethrin, which has been linked to tremors and seizures in the nervous systems of animals and insects.

The newest additions to the list were pears and potatoes, which replaced cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year.

The Clean Fifteen

Produce that had relatively fewer pesticides and lower total concentrations of pesticide residues was placed on the group’s “Clean Fifteen” list.

This list included, in order, sweet corn (including corn on the cob and frozen corn), avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papaya, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.

Only 1% of samples showed any detectable pesticides in avocados and sweet corn, which were deemed the cleanest produce.

More than 80% of pineapples, papaya, asparagus, onions and cabbage that were sampled showed no pesticide residue.

Methodology

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, analyzed more than 36,000 samples taken by personnel at the USDA and the FDA who mimicked consumer practices by first washing or peeling the produce.

To compare the fruits and vegetables, the group came up with a composite score for each type of produce based on six measures of contamination. Some of the measures include the percent of the sample tested with detectable pesticides and the average number of pesticides found on a single sample.

Shopping smart

Nutrition experts support the findings and even use the list to make recommendations to their own patients.

“I believe that this is an important source of information,” said Corinne Bush, a clinical nutritionist who was not part of the research.

Bush warns that some pesticides that do not exceed thresholds established by the EPA can still be very harmful, since low-level exposure over time can have extremely damaging effects.

The Environmental Working Group recommends buying organic produce whenever possible to reduce exposure to pesticides.

“If you don’t want to feed your family food contaminated with pesticides, the EWG Shopper’s Guide helps you make smart choices, whether you’re buying conventional or organic produce,” Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the group, said in a news release.

“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown, but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic. If you can’t buy organic, the Shopper’s Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides.”

By Johanzynn Gatewood  (CNN)      Wed March 8, 2017
 


Leave a comment

Eating More of This Will Make You Live Longer

By now we know that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for our health, but a new study suggests that eating even more produce can prevent millions of deaths each year.

In the report, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Imperial College London conducted a meta-analysis of 95 studies looking at fruit and vegetable intake. They estimated that 7.8 million premature global deaths could be avoided yearly if people ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day.

The researchers characterize 10 portions as 800 grams of fruits and vegetables a day. For context, one medium apple is around 182 grams.

Already eating plenty of fruits and vegetables cut people’s risk of early death from heart disease and cancer. But the researchers estimated that if people ate up to 10 portions a day, there would be a 24% lower risk of heart disease, 33% lower risk of stroke, 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, 13% lower risk of cancer, and a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to not eating any fruit or vegetables.

fruits-veggies

The fruits and vegetables that were linked to lower risk of heart problems included the usual suspects like apples, citrus, and leafy veggies like spinach. Other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts as well as peppers and green beans were linked to potentially lower cancer risk.

The researchers didn’t show why higher portions of fruits and vegetables can led to fewer deaths, but some of the basic nutrients in the produce can improve health. “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system,” said study author Dagfinn Aune of the Imperial College London School of Public Health in a statement. “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”But how realistic is it to ask people to eat up to 10 portions of produce? Considering fewer than 18% of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit and less than 14% eat the recommended amount of vegetables, that will be a challenge.

Alexandra Sifferlin   Feb 23, 2017
source: TIME Health


2 Comments

How To Beat Major Depression With The Right Diet

World-first study reveals how diet can treat major depression.

Improving dietary quality successfully treats major depression, a large new study finds.

The three-month study recruited people with major depressive disorder.

One group were given support from a clinical dietitian.

A control group were given access to social support, which is also beneficial for depression.

Those in the dietary group saw great improvements in depressive symptoms.

At the end of the study one-third of people who had changed their diet were in remission from depression.

This compared to only 8% in the social support group.

Professor Felice Jacka, the study’s first author, said:

“We’ve known for some time that there is a clear association between the quality of people’s diets and their risk for depression.
This is the case across countries, cultures and age groups, with healthy diets associated with reduced risk, and unhealthy diets associated with increased risk for depression.
However, this is the first randomised controlled trial to directly test whether improving diet quality can actually treat clinical depression.”

diet

The dietitian encouraged people to eat more of the following food types:

  • vegetables,
  • fruits,
  • whole grains,
  • legumes,
  • fish,
  • lean red meats,
  • olive oil,
  • and nuts.

At the same time people were discouraged from eating:

  • sweets,
  • refined cereals,
  • fried food,
  • fast-food,
  • processed meats,
  • and sugary drinks.

Professor Jacka continued:

“These results were not explained by changes in physical activity or body weight, but were closely related to the extent of dietary change.
Those who adhered more closely to the dietary program experienced the greatest benefit to their depression symptoms.”

The study suggests that dietitians should be made available to those being treated for depression.

Professor Jacka said:

“Mental disorders account for the leading cause of disability worldwide, with depression accounting for the large proportion of that burden.
While approximately half of sufferers are helped by currently available medical and psychological therapies, new treatment options for depression are urgently needed.
Importantly, depression also increases the risk of and, in turn, is also increased by common physical illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Successfully improving the quality of patients’ diets would also benefit these illnesses.”

The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine (Jacka et al., 2017).

FEBRUARY 15, 2017                source: PsyBlog


Leave a comment

12 Fresh Foods You Should Never Store Together

Your cart is bursting with colorful fruits and veggies, but days later, it’s all wilted and sad. Use these smart storage rules to keep foods fresher longer.

Cucumbers stand alone
Many fruits, such as tomatoes, bananas, and melons, produce ethylene gas, a ripening agent that speeds up spoilage. Cucumbers are super sensitive to this ethylene gas, so they need their own place or they’ll spoil faster. They’re actually more suited to hanging out on the counter than in the crisper drawer with off-gassing fruits, but if you want cold cucumbers, you can store them for a few days in the fridge (away from fruits). If you need to use them up fast, try this refreshing cold cucumber soup.

Treat herbs like fresh flowers
If you’re trying to cut back on salt or just add more flavor to your food, fresh herbs fit the bill, but don’t just toss them in the fridge. “Store fresh herbs just as you would fresh cut flowers,” says Dana Tomlin, Fresh Manager at Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin, Texas. First, make sure the leaves are completely dry. Next, snip off the ends and place the herbs, stem down in a cup or mason jar with water. Most herbs do well when stored this way in the fridge. Basil, however likes to hang out at room temperature. You’ll still want to place it in a jar with water though. When the water gets yucky, drain and add fresh water. Most herbs stored this way are good for up to two weeks. Start your own herb garden to save money and get super-fresh sprigs.

Squash and pumpkins don’t go with apples and pears
Squash and pumpkins are well known for having a long shelf life but apples, another fall favorite (along with pears and other ripening fruit) shouldn’t be stored with them. According to Oregon State University Extension Service, it will cause the squash to yellow and go bad. Squash and pumpkins keep well at temps between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cooler than room temperature but not as chilly as the fridge. Larger pumpkins and larger squash will last up to six months, but keep an eye on the smaller ones, as they usually last about three months. See what nutritionists do with pumpkin puree.

Bag your root veggies
Root vegetables such as carrots, yams, kohlrabi, beets, and onions are some of the most nutrient-dense veggies we can eat, since they absorb nutrients from the soil. To retain those good nutrients, store root vegetables in a cool, dark, and humid place. A root cellar is ideal, but most of us don’t have one. The next best option, according to ohmyveggies.com, is to place the veggies in a paper or plastic bag in the crisper. If you just toss them in the fridge—even in the crisper, they’ll soften and rot a lot quicker.

Give your berries a bath
Berries are delightfully sweet and easy to eat. The problem is, they can get moldy quickly if not stored properly. The culprit is tiny mold spores that want to make the little nooks and crannies of the berry skin their home. Tomlin says the first rule is to avoid washing them until you’re ready to eat them because moisture equals mold. What if you just brought home a Costco-size carton of berries and won’t be able to eat them all right away? You can extend their life by a few days by taking a few minutes to give the berries a bath in a solution of one cup vinegar to three cups of water. Let them soak briefly; then gently rinse in a colander. The vinegar will hinder the mold growth. Since berries don’t do well sitting wet, make sure to dry them thoroughly—lay them out on a paper towel and gently blot (or put a few paper towels in your salad spinner and dry them that way. Store the berries loosely in a container that is ventilated, or leave the lid partially opened.

berries

Separate your apples and oranges
Sometimes, we can’t just all get along. That’s the case with apples and oranges—trusted fruit bowl staples in still life paintings but frenemies in fridge life. Fruits give off a gas called ethylene, the ripening agent that will lead to faster spoilage of the produce around it, says author and chef, Matthew Robinson of The Culinary Exchange. Store apples in the fridge if you want to extend their shelf life. Oranges stored in the fridge (away from apples) should be placed in a mesh bag so that air can circulate around them. Plastic bags will only make oranges moldy.

Break up your bananas
Banana hooks may show off bananas in their best light but the problem is, they will all ripen the same time, which means you’re either eating bananas for two days straight or tossing the rotting ones. Here’s a solution: Break up the bunch. Keep some in the fruit bowl on the counter to ripen and store others bananas in the fridge to delay the ripening process. If you missed your chance and you’ve got a glut of spotted bananas, use them in banana bread or toss them in the freezer to make banana “ice cream.” Bananas are good for your health—inside and out. Another idea: Try mashing them up to make a homemade face mask.

Don’t let onions and potatoes mingle
Fried potatoes and onions are a delish combo but don’t store them together before you cook them, as the onions will cause the potatoes to go bad. “It’s best to store items like potatoes and squash in an open-air wicker basket in a cool, dark place to preserve freshness,” says Tomlin. “You can store them in a paper bag, but just make sure they’re in a container where moisture or condensation can’t build up, which would make them soften and go bad faster.” A friendly neighbor for onions is garlic. They can be stored near each other without ripening or spoiling. Just store them in a well ventilated space, and keep the paper-like skin of the garlic intact until use.

Ripen avocados next to bananas
According to the 2017 survey conducted by Pollock Communications and the trade publication Today’s Dietitian avocado is number two on the list of the Top 10 Super Foods for 2017. Since avocados can be pricey, it’s important to store them correctly. “If your avocados are under-ripe, store them next to bananas. The gasses released from the bananas promote ripening,” says Tomlin. “If you need to extend the life of an avocado, store it in the refrigerator. It will slow the ripening process significantly.” For times you get a hankerin’ for a little sliced avocado on a sammie but can’t eat the whole thing, Tomlin suggests storing the cut avocado with the seed intact in an airtight container along with a sliver of a onion.

Tomatoes hate the fridge
Or is the fridge that hates tomatoes? A freshly picked garden tomato is undeniably delicious, but too much time in the fridge can make it mushy and bland-tasting. According to eatright.org, tomatoes can be stored in the fridge for two or three days but once you cut into it any unused tomato or any fruit and veggie should be placed back in the fridge to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. But tomatoes kept at room temperature have more flavor. So, if you can, store them on the countertop. See the other foods you’re spoiling by putting them in the fridge.

Let carrots, celery, and, asparagus take a dip
Peanut butter on a crunchy stalk of celery is a snack that has stood the test of time (especially if you put raisins atop the peanut butter), but limp celery—not so much. Storing it in plastic is a no-no. The ethylene gas it produces has no where to go. Wrap the celery tightly in foil and after each use, re-wrap it snug. Or if you want grab-n-go celery, cut it up into sticks and submerge them in water in an airtight container. The same water bath works for cut-up carrot sticks and asparagus. Keep the rubber bands around the stems and cut off the fibrous ends. They are pretty tough and not tasty anyway. Place them in a tall drinking glass with enough water to cover an inch of asparagus. Find 30 more delicious snack ideas.

Let sweet corn chill—but not too much
The best way to enjoy this sweetheart of summer is to eat it fresh for maximum sweetness. If you must store it for a short time, you can place it in the fridge. “Keep ears cool in your refrigerator with the husks on to keep in moisture,” says Tomlin. Don’t wrap the corn in a plastic or paper bag. If possible, store them toward the front of fridge where it’s slightly warmer. “Corn will dry out and get starchy if it’s kept too cold because there’s not enough humidity to keep the kernel plumb,” says Tomlin. Keep the husks on for grilling corn on the cob.

BY LISA MARIE CONKLIN
source: www.rd.com


Leave a comment

10 Foods That Preserve Intelligence And Brain Health

A pigment in leafy vegetables stops the degrading of ‘crystallized intelligence’ by old age, new research finds.

Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use knowledge, experience and skills which have been gained during the lifetime.

Lutein is a yellow pigment and naturally occurring carotenoid that is produced by plants and so can only be obtained from the diet.

Lutein can be extracted from marigold flower and is present in:

  • spinach,
  • kale,
  • broccoli,
  • cabbage,
  • yellow carrots,
  • mango,
  • orange,
  • papaya,
  • red or green pepper

and also in egg yolks and animal fats since animals consume this pigment from plants.
Ms Marta Zamroziewicz, the study’s first author, said:

“Lutein accumulates in the brain, embedding in cell membranes, where it likely plays ‘a neuroprotective role’.

Previous studies have found that a person’s lutein status is linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan.

peppers

Research also shows that lutein accumulates in the gray matter of brain regions known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging.”

The  study analysed the effect of lutein on the cognitive function of 122 healthy adults between 65 to 75 years old.

Subjects had to complete neuropsychological testing related to crystallized intelligence.

Blood samples were collected to assess the levels of lutein and brain volume was measured using MR imaging.

The focus was on parts of the temporal cortex since this area of the brain is important in the maintenance of crystallized intelligence.

The results showed that those with higher blood serum levels of lutein performed better on crystallized intelligence tests.

Professor Aron Barbey, who led the study, said:

“Our analyses revealed that gray-matter volume of the parahippocampal cortex on the right side of the brain accounts for the relationship between lutein and crystallized intelligence.
This offers the first clue as to which brain regions specifically play a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence, and how factors such as diet may contribute to that relationship.”

Professor Barbey concluded:

“We can only hypothesize at this point how lutein in the diet affects brain structure.
It may be that it plays an anti-inflammatory role or aids in cell-to-cell signaling.
But our finding adds to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain aging.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (Zamroziewicz et al., 2016).

29TH DECEMBER 2016        MINA DEAN


Leave a comment

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