The Mediterranean diet gives many benefits to those who follow it. Some of these benefits may be due to its effect on the intestinal microbiota, especially in the elderly.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most popular diets, that is the most studied in the scientific literature. Several benefits are associated with it, such as the reduction of cardiovascular events or neurodegenerative diseases. It is a widely accepted and little contested fact: the Mediterranean diet is “good” for health all over the world.
The reason for this is the wide variety of foods, fresh, unprocessed and full of compounds sometimes called “protectors” such as polyphenols or antioxidants, and of course the richness of fats, especially oleic fatty acids, contained in the inimitable olive oil. As is often the case, we find it difficult to identify all the effective causes of a diet’s effects on health. In fact, all the interactions that occur between our complex foods, the individual’s genetics, his or her intestinal flora, etc., are real enigmas for the scientific method, which likes to be reductionist in the development of its protocols in order to avoid distortions. A study recently published in Gut magazine gives us a little more information on the links between the Mediterranean diet and the microbiota.
Effects on the microbiota
A recent randomized, controlled, multicenter, mono-blind study with 612 elderly people was conducted simultaneously in five European countries (France, United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands) for one year. It highlights the decrease in “Frailty” (Frailty syndrome is a series of risk symptoms that characterize a harmful health condition in the elderly), the improvement of cognitive abilities and the decrease in inflammation. These three positive effects of the Mediterranean diet can be partly explained by changes within the intestinal microbiota.
In individuals in the intervention group (those on the Mediterranean diet), several markers developed dramatically in parallel with their microbial population, in contrast to the control group. Even more surprising is that these associations were more or less independent of host-specific factors such as age or weight. Among these positive effects, the decrease in ” Frailty ” seems to be caused by the peripheral effects of microbial modification, while for the other benefits, the induced microbial modification would be predominant.
Foods are important to prevention
These results support the fact that modifying the diet to modulate the intestinal microbiota in order to promote healthy aging is more than feasible. In addition, the complex analysis of microbiota in the study has produced a short list of microbial taxa (conceptual units grouping organisms with common characteristics) for further research. According to the authors, testing of these strains as living biotherapeutic agents for direct administration to the elderly may be relevant to reduce the onset of Frailty before the dietary change.
Again, we note the preventive potential that nutrition has on our state of health. A potential that is underused, since nutritional counselling is almost non-existent in the course of medical treatment.