‘Green’ Mediterranean diet is healthier version of original, spurs growth of rare gut bacterial species

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet, now feast your eyes (or your stomach) on the green Mediterranean diet. New research finds this healthier version of the Mediterranean diet gets many of its health benefits from the gut. Specifically, the food involved in the diet nourishes “good” bacteria involved in regulating weight and blood sugar levels.

The results of the study came following a trial that looked at the effectiveness of the green-Mediterranean diet. Unlike the traditional Mediterranean diet that focuses on seafood, the green Mediterranean is all about plants instead of red meat and other animal products. The diet also focuses on foods rich in polyphenols and a daily intake of walnuts. Participants in the trial also drank 3 to 4 daily cups of green tea and 100 grams of a duckweed green shake. The duckweed green shake is a great source for getting the recommended dose of protein, iron, B12, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols.

Previous findings in trial found that a high-polyphenol, green plant-based diet increases the microbiome’s effects for a successful autologous fecal microbiota transplantation (aFMT) procedure. Compared to the traditional Mediterranean diet, the green Mediterranean diet also shown to improve remission of fatty liver, improve LDL cholesterol, glycemic control, CRP, and blood pressure control, as well as weakening age-related brain atrophy.

While all diets affect the gut microbiome, the researchers say the green Mediterranean diet created a substantial change for community members. Many of the positive changes to the gut microbiome from the green diet appeared to affect bacteria thought to rarely exist in the intestines. The expansion of rare bacterial species may have come from the duckweed green shake in the diet, which is new to many Western palates.

“These results are another example illuminating the central role of our gut microbiome in health and disease and will further our understanding in this intriguing field”, says Professor Ilan Youngster, coauthor of the study in a press release.

Notable changes included increases in microbes from the genus Prevotella. These bacteria help with glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Additionally, the bacteria promote genetic pathways involved in reducing branched-chain amino acids — compounds connected to insulin resistance. The research team also observed the gut microbes’ role as a mediator between diet and positive health outcomes, including weight loss and reduced risk of heart problems.

“We hope that by unraveling the role of the gut microbiome in the diet’s effect, we can further improve and personalize diets in the future,” says Dr. Ehud Rinott, first author and member of the BGU School of Public Health.

The study is published in the journal Genome Medicine.

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