Out gut microbiome consists of thousands of microorganisms that play an essential role in digesting nutrients and can have both positive and negative effects on our health. While the mechanisms of how the gut microbiome impacts human health is still under scientific investigation, new evidence suggests that eating specific kinds of food influences the type of bacteria living in our gut and their health-related role. For instance, a new study led by King’s College London (KCL) has found that eating a handful of almonds per day significantly increases the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid promoting gut health.
The scientists recruited 87 healthy adult participants who were already eating less than the recommended amounts of fibers and who typically snacked on unhealthy foods such as chocolate or crisps. The participants were split into three groups: the first group changed their snacks for 56 grams of whole almonds per day, the second one for 56 grams of ground almonds per day, and the control group ate energy-matched muffins during the course of a month.
Researchers discovered that butyrate – a fatty acid which is the main source of fuel for the cells lining the colon, contributing to a strong gut wall that can easily absorb nutrients, and allowing beneficial gut microbes to flourish – was significantly higher among almond eaters compared to those that consumed muffins. While no major difference was observed in gut transit time among the three groups, whole-almond eaters had an additional 1.5 bowel movements per week, suggesting that eating almonds could also benefit people with constipation.
Thus, eating whole and ground almonds can improve people’s diets, providing them with higher intakes of monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, potassium, and other important nutrients. “Part of the way in which the gut microbiota impact human health is through the production of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. These molecules act as a fuel source for cells in the colon, they regulate absorption of other nutrients in the gut, and help balance the immune system. We think these findings suggest almond consumption may benefit bacterial metabolism in a way that has the potential to influence human health,” concluded study lead author Kevin Wheelan, an expert in Nutritional Sciences at KCL.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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