The benefits of a Mediterranean diet on health are well documented but new research shows that eating a diet rich in fish, vegetables, legumes, fruit and olive oil could offer a significant boost to levels of good bacteria in the gut.
Scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found that following a Mediterranean-style regime produced seven per cent higher levels of good bacteria in the microbiome – mainly Lactobacillus – than a more traditional western diet.
Published this week in online journal Frontiers in Nutrition, the research explained how an animal model was used to replicate Western and Mediterranean diets consumed by humans.
Primates were studied over 30 months in two groups, each consuming either a Western or a Mediterranean diet – both containing the same calorie intake.
While the Western diet featured fats including lard, suet, butter, eggs, cholesterol, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, the Mediterranean diet contained olive oil, fish meal and oils, eggs, black and garbanzo bean flour, wheat flour, butter, fruit puree, sucrose and vegetable juice.
Following the 30-month trial, good bacteria levels in the gut were significantly higher in the primates that were following the Mediterranean diet.
Dr Hariom Yadav, professor of molecular medicine and microbiology and immunology at Wake Forest Baptist, who led the study, said: ‘We have about two billion good and bad bacteria living in our gut.
‘If the bacteria are of a certain type and not properly balanced, our health can suffer.
‘Our study showed that the good bacteria, primarily Lactobacillus, most of which are probiotic, were significantly increased in the Mediterranean-diet group.’