There’s a Surprising Connection Between Gut Health and the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean diet

March 13, 2020

We all know the benefits of the Mediterranean diet on weight maintenance and protecting the heart, as it is high in anti-inflammatory foods, like olive oil, fatty fish, and fruits and veggies, and lower in red meat and processed foods.

Yet, there is now a surprising connection between gut health and the Mediterranean diet, according to new research, published online Feb. 17 in the journal Gut. What’s more, because it can heal your gut and boost immunity, it can also improve the aging process, thereby slowing cognitive decline, frailty development, and risk for inflammatory disease. Here’s what to know.

The Research

Researchers looked at the microbiome of 612 people aged 65 to 79, before and after 12 months of either eating their usual diet or a Mediterranean diet, which was rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and fish and was low in red meat and saturated fats. Pantry and kitchen staples on the Mediterranean diet include Greek yogurt and dairy, legumes and beans, olive oil, fish, produce, nuts and seeds, and even wine.

The participants lived in five different countries: France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and the UK. And they ranged in levels of fragility to start.

The study found that eating a Mediterranean diet for a year improves the types of gut bacteria linked to aging well (and at a slower pace) while also helping to reduce damaging and disease-triggering inflammation in older people. The diet might act on gut bacteria in such a way that it will help slow down the progression of physical frailty and cognitive decline in those of an older age, suggest the researchers.

The Takeaway

While more research is to be known with regard to such effects, it shows promise that eating a Mediterranean diet could help those aging and both reduce inflammation and protect the brain.

Get recipes: 7 Easy Mediterranean Recipes to Try