It turns out that a Mediterranean-style diet isn’t just good for your heart; it’s also good for your gut. How do we know? Because findings from a new study—published appropriately in the journal Gut—tell us just that.
Researchers from the University of Naples in Italy recently looked at the eating habits of more than 150 adults over a single week, taking regular stool and urine samples to analyze the participants’ gut bacteria in response to the foods they ate. What they found is pretty interesting.
Individuals who followed a Mediterranean diet—one rich in healthy fats, protein, and especially fiber from non-starchy veggies, low-sugar fruits, and legumes—had higher levels of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in their guts. SCFAs are formed when fiber from plant foods breaks down in the large intestine (or colon), and they provide countless health benefits for the body.
It was noted that different dietary patterns were linked to different microbial compositions, and the more healthy foods an individual consumed, the more his or her gut bacteria worked to produce SCFAs—which in turn helped regulate microbial metabolism and support overall health.
In addition to their role in healthy metabolic function, past research shows SCFAs support bowel health and promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body. They have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and related conditions.
Every day our bodies come into contact with hundreds of toxins—many of which are hazardous to human health—which is why taking steps to reduce exposure in our daily lives is so important. Take Bisphenol A, for example. BPA is a chemical used to harden plastics and is still widely used in food packaging. Exposure to BPA has been linked to an array of health conditions, including brain and behavior problems as well as heart problems. Now, two new studies provide even more reason to keep an eye out for BPA.
BPA, Laziness, and Obesity: A Possible Link
Researchers from the University of Missouri recently discovered that mice exposed to BPA in the womb (along with another chemical called ethinyl estradiol) were less physically active, slept more, and had slower metabolisms when compared with those who were not exposed, all of which contribute to obesity and related conditions. Study author Cheryl Rosenfeld and her team worry that because humans come into contact with these chemicals so early and so frequently throughout life, the impact on our physical and mental health may last well into adulthood.
Is BPA on Your Child’s School Menu?
A new study out of Stanford University in California has found that children who eat school meals may be at a higher risk of BPA exposure. Researchers found that most food items available in school cafeterias come pre-packaged in cans, plastic bags, or plastic containers—all common hiding spots for BPA—and depending on what they ate, students who consumed federally funded school meals on a daily basis were more likely to have a higher BPA intake.
“Even a dose of one extra microgram per day could be a big deal,” said lead author Jennifer Hartle, a postdoctoral researcher at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. She stressed the need for more adequate testing with regard to the risks involved with even low levels of BPA, as well as the need for schools to protect kids by limiting exposure whenever possible and offering more fresh fruits and vegetables.