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People who eat this diet have fewer antibiotic resistance microbes in their gut – says study

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Scientists just found foods that can fight against antibiotic resistance

According to a study published in mBio by Agricultural Research Service scientists and their colleagues, healthy adults who consume a varied diet containing at least 8-10 grams of soluble fiber per day have fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their stomachs.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, viruses, and fungi are a significant source of risk for people all over the world, with the widely held expectation that the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) — the term that refers to bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are resistant to antibiotics — will only get worse in the coming decades.

People’s antimicrobial resistance is mostly reliant on their gut microbiota, which is known to possess genetically programmed methods for surviving antibiotic interaction.

“And the results,” according to research molecular biologist Danielle Lemay, lead author of the study, “lead directly to the idea that modifying the diet has the potential to be a new weapon in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. And we’re not talking about eating some exotic diet either, but a diverse diet, adequate in fiber, that some Americans already eat.”

This study looked for specific connections between the levels of antibiotic resistance genes in the bacteria of the human gut with both fiber and animal protein intake in adult diets.

The researchers discovered that frequently consuming a diet high in fiber and low in protein, notably from beef and pork, was associated with reduced levels of antimicrobial resistance genes (ARG) in their gut microorganisms. Strict anaerobic microorganisms, which can not grow when oxygen is present and are a hallmark of a healthy gut with low inflammation, were found in greater abundance in those with the lowest amounts of ARG in their gut microbiomes. The most common anaerobes discovered were bacteria from the Clostridiaceae family.

However, the amount of animal protein consumed in the diet was not a strong predictor of elevated ARG levels. The strongest evidence pointed to a link between higher soluble fiber intake and lower ARG levels in the diet.

“Surprisingly, the most important predictor of low levels of ARG, even more than fiber, was the diversity of the diet,” adds the lead author, “This suggests that we may want to eat from diverse sources of foods that tend to be higher in soluble fiber for maximum benefit.”

Soluble fiber, as the name implies, dissolves in water and is found in grains such as barley and oats; legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas; seeds (such as chia seeds); and select fruits and vegetables such as carrots, berries, artichokes, broccoli, and winter squash.

People with the highest amounts of ARG in their gut microbiomes had significantly less diversified gut microbiomes than those with low and medium levels of ARG.

“Our diets provide food for gut microbes. This all suggests that what we eat might be a solution to reduce antimicrobial resistance by modifying the gut microbiome,” Lemay adds.

The study included 290 healthy adults in total.

“But this is still just a beginning because what we did was an observational study rather than a study in which we provided a particular diet for subjects to eat, which would allow more head-to-head comparisons,” explains Lemay. “In the end, dietary interventions may be useful in lessening the burden of antimicrobial resistance and might ultimately motivate dietary guidelines that will consider how nutrition could reduce the risk of antibiotic-resistant infections.”

Image Credit: Getty

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