Two separate studies from Pennsylvania State University in the US show that a handful of peanuts and some herbs and spices can promote a healthy gut.
Trillions of microorganisms live in the human stomach and intestines, including hundreds to thousands of species of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Collectively, it is known as the gut microbiome and is incredibly important to our health. Diet, exercise, and medications are just some of the factors that can affect a person’s gut composition, meaning that each person’s intestinal community is unique.
And if your gut microbiome is not properly nourished, harmful microbes can multiply while symbiotic microbes have more trouble with tasks like working our immune systems and breaking down our food.
Scientists are still trying to figure out what traits characterize healthier gut communities, but as research progresses, they’re starting to get a clearer picture.
“Studies have shown that people who have a lot of different microbes have better health and better nutrition than those who don’t have a lot of bacterial diversity,” explains nutritionist Penny M. Chris Etherton.
Chris Atherton and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania were among the first to study the effect of herbs and spices on the composition of the human gut.
In their study, 54 adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease participated in a four-week randomized controlled nutrition trial.
During the experiment, everyone followed the same general menu, which reflected the average American diet. Some participants were asked to add 0.5g (about 0.2oz) of the spice to their meals, while others were asked to add 3.3g or 6.6g.
The spice mix included cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme. Meanwhile, the control group was asked not to add these spices to their food.
Stool samples taken before and after the experiment showed that diets with more spices tend to show more bacterial diversity.
The new findings support recent research showing that herbs and spices are a natural prebiotic that feeds healthy bacteria in the human gut.
Those who ate meals with medium to high amounts of spices, about 3/4 teaspoon per day and about 1 1/2 teaspoon per day, had a greater abundance of intestinal bacteria called Ruminococcaceae. This family of microbes is usually found in higher numbers in healthy adults, although its exact role in the gut is unclear.
Participants who ate the spice in the study also showed fewer inflammatory molecules in their gut, indicating a potential anti-inflammatory effect.
More research is needed to find out exactly which spices affect gut microbes and why, but it’s not the only supplement that seems to stimulate certain gut bacteria.
A recent randomized controlled trial, also conducted in Pennsylvania, recently investigated the effects of peanuts on micro-organisms for the first time.
The study lasted six weeks and included 50 adults who followed the same daily diet. At the end of each day, after dinner and before bed, participants either ate 28 grams of dry, unsalted roasted peanuts or ate a small sample of cheese and crackers.
And in the group that snacked on nuts, as they did on spices in the previous study, there were significantly more Ruminococcaceae bacteria in the participants’ guts at the end of the study.
There is still a lot that scientists don’t understand about the gut microbiome, but for now, adding a little spice to your diet probably won’t hurt — it can help.
Source: Science Alert