3D image of gut bacteria

Individuals who con­sume a typ­i­cal Mediterranean diet are less prone to anom­alies in gas­troin­testi­nal micro­biota, a grow­ing body of evi­dence sug­gests.

Now, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), in the United Kingdom, are work­ing to add to this col­lec­tive knowl­edge. Haleh Moravej, a senior lec­turer in nutri­tional sci­ence at MMU, and a team of stu­dents at the uni­ver­sity have launched the MetMUnch ini­tia­tive in order to do so.

Olive oil as part of a healthy, var­ied and fresh Mediterranean diet and as part of a healthy lifestyle will always be ben­e­fi­cial for phys­i­cal and men­tal health.- Haleh Moravej, senior lec­turer in nutri­tional sci­ence at MMU

“Scientists have known for a long time that there is a con­nec­tion between our gut and brain via nerves, but now we have gut bac­te­ria enter­ing the arena,” Moravej told Olive Oil Times.

“They com­mu­ni­cate with the brain in three dif­fer­ent ways,” she added, “They send sig­nals up the vagus nerve directly to the brain, influ­ence immune cells in the gut that pro­duce chem­i­cals that travel in the blood, and some can get through the blood-​brain bar­rier to the brain.”

See more: Olive Oil Health Benefits

Moravej based the ini­tia­tive on the prin­ci­ple that micro­biota in the human gas­troin­testi­nal tract are respon­si­ble for proper diges­tive func­tion­ing and a strong immune sys­tem. She added that fol­low­ing a healthy eat­ing plan, such as the Mediterranean diet, con­tributes to a healthy gas­troin­testi­nal micro­biota.

“The diet con­tains many foods that are pro­bi­otic, which pro­vide good food for the bac­te­ria,” Moravej said. “The foods are plant-​based, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits.”

“All these have ben­e­fi­cial chem­i­cals such as polyphe­nols,” she added. “Olive oil as part of a healthy, var­ied and fresh Mediterranean diet and as part of a healthy lifestyle will always be ben­e­fi­cial for phys­i­cal and men­tal health.”

Moravej also built on research that sug­gests that anom­alies in these microor­gan­isms have far-​reaching health effects, and that these irreg­u­lar­i­ties can cause stress-​related men­tal dis­or­ders, such as anx­i­ety.

“Studies sug­gest that bac­te­ria can affect hor­mones and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters,” Moravej said. “Microbes can pro­duce almost every neu­ro­trans­mit­ter found in the human brain.”

“We know that peo­ple who have at least 30 plant-​based ele­ments in their weekly diet have a more diverse bac­te­ria in their gut, which is asso­ci­ated with bet­ter weight man­age­ment, bet­ter heart health and bet­ter men­tal health,” she added.

Moravej has also worked with Manchester-​based national char­ity Anxiety UK to com­pile a book­let as part of the ini­tia­tive, in which the Mediterranean diet and other healthy diets are pro­moted.

Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, told Olive Oil Times that the book­let – Nutrition and Anxiety: A Self-​Help Guide – advises peo­ple to con­sume food that has “mood-​boosting prop­er­ties” and advises on which other types of food to avoid.

“It also gives the sci­ence behind how it all works to help bet­ter edu­cate those expe­ri­enc­ing anx­i­ety, stress and anxiety-​based depres­sion on what they are eat­ing and why,” she said. “Food most def­i­nitely impacts on mood, and there­fore main­tain­ing a healthy diet is impor­tant in the man­age­ment of anx­i­ety.”

However, Moravej added that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to improve the sci­en­tific under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship, which is what she plans to con­tinue doing with Anxiety UK and stu­dents in the MetMUnch ini­tia­tive.


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