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Te Whanganui-a-Tara – A new study has researched the impact of a Mediterranean diet on gut bacteria and it has produced far reaching results.

It suggests Mediterranean food can make changes to the gut or our microbiome that are linked to improvements to cognitive function, memory, immunity and bone strength.

A Mediterranean diet is based on the diets of people from Crete, Greece, and southern Italy. The  diet has become popular because people on it show low rate of heart disease, chronic disease, and obesity.

It focuses on whole grains, fish, olive oil, nuts, vegetables, fruits and very low consumption of any non-fish meat.

Exercise and diet are often cited as the best ways of maintaining good health well into our twilight years.

The World economic Forum said its latest study has found that eating a Mediterranean diet causes microbiome changes linked to improvements in cognitive function and memory, immunity and bone strength.

The study looked at 612 people aged 65 to 79 from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland.

Those who followed the Mediterranean diet had better cognitive function and memory, less inflammation, and better bone strength.

When we compared the changes  for those on the Mediterranean diet and those following their regular diet, we saw that the people who strictly followed the Mediterranean diet improved their health.

The findings were consistent from people across all five countries – and small changes in one year can make for big effects in the longer term.

Many of the participants were also pre-frail (meaning their bone strength and density would start decreasing) at the beginning of the study. We found the group who followed their regular diet became frailer over the course of the one-year study. However, those that followed the Mediterranean diet were less frail.

The link between frailty, inflammation, and cognitive function, to changes in the microbiome was stronger than the link between these measures and dietary changes. This suggests that the diet alone wasn’t enough to improve these three markers. Rather, the microbiome had to change too – and the diet caused these changes to the microbiome.

If people can stick to a Mediterranean diet, the higher their levels of good bacteria linked to healthy ageing will be.