Dairy in a Med diet ‘helps gut health’

A collaboration between SAHMRI, UniSA and Flinders University researchers has shown the classic Mediterranean diet with added dairy has the potential to change the composition of gut bacteria for the better, triggering a variety of health benefits.

Funded by Dairy Australia and published in Nutrients, the study assessed how the classic Mediterranean diet, supplemented with milk, cheese and yogurt, can affect gut microbiome.

Dr Jocelyn Choo, SAHMRI / Flinders University researcher.

Adult trial participants at risk of heart disease who followed the diet for an eight-week period showed a sizeable increase in beneficial microbes associated with positive effects on overall gut health, alongside a simultaneous decrease in bad bacteria linked to heart disease risk.

SAHMRI and Flinders University Senior Research Scientist, Dr Jocelyn Choo, who led the microbiome analysis, says the findings support a correlation between the balance of microbiome, intestinal health and cardiometabolic health.

“While the overall structure of the gut microbiome didn’t change dramatically, the study demonstrated that changes in the amount of certain bacteria was clearly linked to the diet,” she says.

“We found that as participants increased the number of good microbes in their gut, they also presented with lower blood pressure. These improvements are significant, given the potential implications for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

This study supports current evidence linking a Mediterranean diet to a boost in metabolism and highlights that positive changes in gut microbes spurred by this style of diet when enriched with dairy products, could be responsible for further cardiometabolic health improvements.

Further research is needed to determine if these results will remain consistent across the broader population, says Dr Choo.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Karen Murphy, says that gut microbiota plays an important role in multiple aspects of health.

“The Mediterranean diet has key foods and nutrients such as fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and amino acids all of which can help improve the gut environment,” she says. “This research demonstrates that a Mediterranean diet, supplemented with additional dairy foods to meet Australian calcium guidelines, can help promote a healthy gut.”

The article – “Interactions between Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Dairy Foods and the Gut Microbiota Influence Cardiovascular Health in an Australian Population (2023)” by Jocelyn M. Choo, Karen J Murphy, Alexandra T Wade, Yanan Wang, Ella L Bracci, Courtney R Davis, Kathryn A Dyer, Richard J Woodman, Jonathan M Hodgson and Geraint B Rogers – has been published in Nutrients.

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College of Medicine and Public Health Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute