Over the past few years, people have become very aware of their gut microbiome and the importance of keeping it healthy.
A healthy gut microbiome has a diverse range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that help the digestive system break down food and support the immune system and the gut-brain axis.
Sometimes, people may be confused about what they need to eat to have a diverse and healthy gut microbiome.
A new study from Graz University of Technology in Austria suggests that it’s as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables.
The findings were published in the journal Gut Microbes.
For this study, researchers first created a catalog of microbiome data from fruits and vegetables. This allowed them to figure out which bacteria and other plant microorganisms come from each type of produce.
Next, scientists compared their data catalog with publicly available data from two studies on intestinal flora — the TEDDY project looking at the development of babies in a long-term study and the American Gut Project examining the intestinal microbiome of adults.
With so much data in their hands, the researchers were able to find evidence of fruit and vegetable microflora in the gut.
Dr. Gabriele Berg, head of the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at Graz University of Technology in Austria and lead author of this study, told Medical News Today these findings may affect how fresh fruits and vegetables are grown and packaged in the future because intense agri- and horticulture is a strong driver of the environmental microbiome that influences human health, as well as planetary health.
“In my eyes, we have to rethink a lot of our current agricultural practices. For example, breeding for yield and resistance only, seed production and control, use of fertilizers and pesticides, food storage, and processing,” she said.
Dr. Berg is already working on a new study where people on three continents eat the same things for a certain period. This will allow researchers to examine how where foods are grown may affect the gut microbiome.
“Fresh fruit and vegetables will always have the best microbiome; agriculture or processing companies already have a major influence here. And the storage and processing of food must also be critically reconsidered,” Dr. Berg added.
From their findings, the scientists found that eating more fruits and vegetables during infancy positively influences the development of the immune system during the first three years of life.
According to Dr. Babak Firoozi, a board certified gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, who was not involved in this study, during infancy, the gut flora is heavily influenced by the mother, as well as by the early introduction of fruits and vegetables.
“The overall gut microbiota appears to settle and not change significantly after the baby turns 2,” he told MNT. “Therefore, it is crucial that parents introduce healthy eating at an early age, so their child can have a lifelong gut microbiota that is diverse and [for] promoting of overall good health.”
Monique Richard, a registered dietitian nutritionist, owner of Nutrition-In-Sight, and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, who was not involved in this study, agreed: “Exposure is key for the introduction and establishment of lifelong habits to include a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially for microbiome colonization between ages 1 to 3.”
“Modeling balance and consumption of a wide variety of diverse foods and food groups by parents/guardians is essential, as well as having those foods available and prepared on a regular basis for the child to consume at meal and snack time,” she added.