A balanced diet rich in omega-3 improves gut health which could have benefits towards obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
A team of experts from Nottingham and London have been comparing how different diets can affect the gut. They said people who eat plenty of probiotic foods, fibres and omega-3 oils, which are often found in fish, benefit from a healthier gut and better health outcomes.
During a study of more than 800 middle-aged to older women, researchers looked at how a larger intake of omega-3 affected the trillions of viruses, bacteria and fungi that live in the gut, otherwise known as the microbiome.
The trial showed that the women who regularly consumed greater levels of omega-3 were found to have healthier gut health. The health benefits of diverse microbiomes are significant as it is thought this can help lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as gut conditions such as Crohn’s or colitis.
Lead author associate professor and reader, Dr Ana Valdes, who is affiliated to the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, said: “Our study is the largest to date to examine the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and the composition of the gut microbiome.
“We examined their food intake of omega-3 fatty acids using food frequency questionnaires and found these data, together with their serum levels of omega-3, were strongly associated with the diversity and number of species of healthy bacteria in the gut.”
Dr Cristina Menni, from King’s College London, added that they discovered that specific bacteria, linked to lower inflammation and a lower risk of obesity, were increased in the women who consumed greater levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
She said: “We further explored how this related to compounds in faeces and found that, in addition to fish protein and omega-3, high levels of omega-3 in blood are correlated with high levels of a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG) in the gut.
“This compound has been shown in animals to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. We believe that some of the good effects of omega-3 in the gut may be due to the fact that omega 3 induces bacteria to produce this substance.”
The findings have been published in the Scientific Reports journal.