A Mediterranean diet could improve older adults' gut microbiota

It’s possible that switching to a Mediterranean diet could help improve the overall health of older adults, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.

In general, we know that aging is associated with deterioration of multiple body functions and inflammation. Another common part of aging is IBS. In fact, in a separate study published in Geriatrics, between 10-20% of seniors have IBS symptoms. So what’s an older adult to do? Consider switching to a Mediterranian diet.

A diet high in vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil, and fish may increase antioxidant activity, reducing the occurrence of several diseases. It could also lower inflammation. Importantly, researchers say a Mediterranean diet changes the gut microbiome—for the better—in the elderly.

The study tracked the microbiome of 612 “non-frail” or “pre-frail” seniors in five European countries for 12 months. "Frail individuals" are those who are not ill, but not well either. They tire easily. They have no energy and often are weak and thin. In the study, researchers noticed that those who consumed a diet high in fibers, vitamins, and minerals for a full year improved their gut microbiomes, which also positively affected their overall health. A better gut health could mean less injuries or illnesses.

Patients suffering from IBS can benefit from a Mediteranean diet. According to the Good Clinical Practice Network, patients associate their symptoms with specific food consumptions, creating the need for developing a new therapeutic approach based on altering the dietary intake of these patients.

The positive impact to health only works if people stay on the diet consistently, noted the researchers. So while it might be okay to have an occasional donut, a daily bowl of oatmeal and fruit servings may be a better choice.

While this new study may help healthcare providers to recommend the Mediterranean diet to their older and frail patients, it’s also confirmation that what’s good for the gut is also good for IBS.