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Walnuts stimulate health by changing gut bacteria
August 10, 2017, 4:16 pm

Researchers at the New Orleans School of Medicine in the US have found that walnuts in the diet change the makeup of bacteria in the gut, which suggests a new way walnuts may contribute to better health.

Walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, fiber and have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants, are often categorized as a ‘superfood’. Now, an additional superfood benefit of walnuts may be their beneficial changes to the microbiome in the intestine.

Working in a rodent model, the research team added walnuts to the diet of one group. The diet of the other group contained no walnuts. They then measured the types and numbers of gut bacteria in the descending colon and compared the results. They found that there were two distinct communities of bacteria in the groups.

In the walnut-eating group, the numbers and types of bacteria changed, as did the bacteria's functional capacity. The researchers reported a significant increase in beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, typically associated with probiotics. Prebiotics are dietary substances that selectively promote the numbers and activity of beneficial bacteria.

Other studies have associated less bacterial diversity with obesity and other diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. Gut health is an emerging research area, and researchers are finding that greater bacterial diversity may be associated with better health outcomes.

The researchers conclude that the reshaping of the gut microbe community by adding walnuts to the diet suggests a new physiological mechanism to improve health. Eating walnuts has been associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk, slower tumor growth in animals and improved brain health.

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