Vitality

Wine And Coffee May Be Good For Your Gut Bacteria, Helping To Diversify Your Microbiome

coffee
Coffee, wine, and tea were all listed as beverages that can increase gut bacteria diversity, compared to sugary drinks. Pixabay, public domain

Scientists say that a diverse gut microbiome is a healthy one, and it turns out that your lifestyle plays a huge role in shaping that. In a new study out of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, researchers examined specific foods and beverages that either contributed to or impaired microbiota diversity, and found that coffee, wine, and tea all helped improve people’s gut bacteria.

“In total we found 60 dietary factors that influence diversity,” said Alexandra Zhernakova, an author of the study, in a statement. “But there is a good correlation between diversity and health: greater diversity is better.”

For the study, the researchers focused on 1135 healthy people who were involved in the LifeLines program in the Northern Netherlands, taking stool samples that would allow them to analyze the DNA of the gut bacteria. They “mapped all the bacterial DNA to gain much more detailed information about bacteria types,” said Cisca Wijmenga, lead author of the study, in the press release. Information about the gut bacteria DNA allowed the researchers to see what types of lifestyle factors – like diet or medications – contributed to diversity in the gut.

They found that people who regularly ate yogurt and buttermilk – or drank coffee, wine, and tea – had more diverse microbiomes. Consuming plenty of carbs or low-fiber foods, meanwhile, has been correlated to gut bacteria depletion, which in turn has been linked to the obesity epidemic. Some 19 different types of medicine, including antacids, antibiotics, and a certain diabetes drug, also have a big influence on microbiome diversity. The researchers also studied how 12 diseases, 4 smoking groups, and 31 other intrinsic factors played into gut bacteria diversity.

Research into gut microbiota is important because it might provide clues for new obesity therapies in the future. For example, scientists have already discovered that fecal transplants are an obesity treatment, in which gut bacteria from a healthy, thin person are transplanted into the intestines of an obese person. The notion of developing a specific diet and lifestyle to improve gut diversity, meanwhile, may also help combat obesity — as well as improve a person’s health in a variety of other ways. For example, a diverse and healthy gut microbiome can boost the immune system as well as regulate blood pressure. Having a healthy gut microbiome has also been shown to improve mood and mental health.

In addition to wine, coffee, and tea, other foods that help the gut are often referred to as probiotics, which can include yogurt, fermented cabbage (and anything fermented, really), kombucha, and miso soup. Eating a variety of these, and steering away from foods heavy in salt, sugar, and fat, will improve your intestinal health. However, when it comes to other types of food like fruits and vegetables, “we don’t know the answer,” Jingyuan Fu, associate professor at the University of Groningen and an author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times. “We can suggest that changes in fiber content and carbohydrate composition are playing a role, but this should be studied in detail in respect to every food item.”

Exercise, stress levels, genetics, and the environment are all additional factors that define a person’s gut microbiome. Once researchers can map out how it all works, they can better develop therapies to improve gut diversity, which in turn can help treat or prevent certain diseases, like diabetes or obesity.

“Disease often occurs as the result of many factors,” Wijmenga said in the press release. “Most of these factors, like your genes or your age, are not things you can change. But you can change the diversity of your microbiome through adapting your diet or medication. When we understand how this works, it will open up new possibilities.”

Source: Zhernakova A, Kurilshikov A, Bonder M, Tigchelaar E, Schirmer M, Vatanen T. Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity. Science , 2016.

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