In a large study, Dutch researchers have investigated the link between our dietary habits, gut bacteria (intestinal flora) and gut health.
The study involved 1,425 adults:
- Half had an intestinal disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome.
- The other half consisted of people with healthy intestines.
The stool was analyzed from all participants. For example, the researchers were able to determine:
- which gut bacteria were present;
- anti-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substances.
The participants also completed a standardized questionnaire to get a good idea of their dietary habits. The researchers then checked to see if there was a link between the two. In total, they investigated 173 dietary factors and their relationship to the intestinal flora.
The investigation shows the following:
- A plant-based diet, rich in legumes, cereals, nuts, fruits and vegetables, is accompanied by more good gut bacteria and/or anti-inflammatory substances.
- The scientists also found this link in oily fish and dairy.
- In fast food, alcohol, sugar and fat, they observed the opposite effect: there were more bacteria present that produce inflammatory substances, with a negative effect on gut health.
The researchers conclude that with a mainly plant-based diet with legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts, supplemented with dairy products and fish, you can help prevent intestinal inflammation processes through the intestinal flora.
The relationship between our diet, our intestinal flora and health is very complex. The hypothesis is that by choosing the right diet we can improve the composition of our intestinal flora. Some researchers assume that this not only has a positive effect on our gut health, but would also help prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, the investigation into this is still in its infancy. It is also quite a challenge to map this out correctly.
This research certainly makes an important contribution, but also has a number of limitations. Because it is a cross-sectional study, the study cannot prove a causal link. We cannot therefore conclude that plant-based food, due to the influence on the intestinal flora, reduces the risk of (intestinal) disorders. But the results are interesting to start intervention studies. Only in this way can researchers prove a causal link.