UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — Adding an ounce of peanuts or about a teaspoon of herbs and spices to your diet daily may affect the composition of gut bacteria, an indicator of overall health, according to new research from Penn State. In two separate studies, nutrition scientists investigated the effects of small changes on the average American diet and found improvements in the gut microbiome.
The human gut microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms that live inside the intestinal tract. The bacteria found there can affect nearly every system in the body, including metabolism and building and maintaining the immune system.
“Research has shown that people who have a lot of different microbes have better health and better diets than those who don’t have a lot of bacterial diversity,” said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, professor of nutritional sciences at the ‘Evan Pugh University, Penn State.
For the peanut study, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, Kris-Etherton and colleagues compared the effects of snacking on 28 grams (about 1 ounce) of peanuts per day, versus a higher-fat snack. in carbohydrates – crackers and cheese. After six weeks, participants who ate the peanut snack showed increased abundance of Ruminococcaceae, a group of bacteria linked to proper liver metabolism and immune function.
In the herbs and spices study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, scientists analyzed the impact of adding herb and spice blends – such as cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme – to the controlled diets of participants at risk for cardiovascular disease. The team looked at three doses – about 1/8 teaspoon per day, just over 3/4 teaspoon per day, and about 1 1/2 teaspoons per day. After four weeks, participants showed an increase in the diversity of gut bacteria, including an increase in Ruminococcaceae, especially with the medium and high doses of herbs and spices.
“It’s such a simple thing people can do,” Kris-Etherton said. “The average American diet is far from ideal, so I think everyone could benefit from adding herbs and spices. It’s also a way to lower the sodium in your diet but to flavor foods in a way that makes them palatable and, in fact, delicious!Taste really is a major criterion in why people choose the foods they make.
In both studies, the increase in Ruminococcaceae and bacterial diversity was viewed positively, as scientists continue to learn more about the link between gut microbiota and an array of health factors, from blood pressure to weight. . However, Kris-Etherton is quick to point out that more research is needed to understand the full implications.
She said: “We need a lot more research on the microbiome to see what its place is in terms of overall health.”
The other authors of the articles are:
Peanut Study: Philip A. Sapp, Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences; Elke A. Arnesen, Jeremy R. Chen See, and Regina Lamendella, Department of Biology at Juniata College and Wright Laboratories; and Kristina S. Petersen, Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences and Texas Tech University Department of Nutritional Sciences.
The work was supported by The Peanut Institute and the Penn State Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. This research was also supported by a grant to Juniata College, Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-College and Undergraduate Science Education Program, and the National Science Foundation.
Herbs and Spices Study: Kristina S. Peterson, Penn State Department of Nutritional Sciences and Texas Tech University Department of Nutritional Sciences; Samantha Anderson, Jeremy R. Chen See, Jillian Leister, and Regina Lamendella, Department of Biology at Juniata College and Wright Labs.
This study was funded by the McCormick Science Institute. Additionally, the study was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH. The study also received support for computing resources from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Pre-College and Undergraduate Science Education Program, as well as the National Science Foundation.
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