Posted on Aug 29, 2017, 10 a.m.
Recent study shows that walnuts increase the diversity of gut bacteria and appear to act in much the same manner as prebiotcs.
Research Associate Professor of Physiology at LSU, Lauri Byerley, has determined the consumption of walnuts alters the composition of bacteria within the gut. This finding suggests a new manner in which walnuts might improve human health. The details of the finding were recently published online in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
About the Study
Dr. Byerley keyed in on walnuts as they are generally revered as a “superfood”. Walnuts are loaded with the omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linoleic acid. They also contain fiber and an abundance of antioxidants. Dr. Byerley's finding shows this superfood provides yet another benefit by promoting beneficial alterations to microbiota within the gut.
Dr. Byerley made use of a rodent model for the study. Her research team provided one group of mice with walnuts in addition to their regular food consumption. The other group continued consuming its normal diet without walnuts.
A Closer Look at the Finding
The research team measured the number and type of gut bacteria within the descending colon and compared the results. They determined there were two unique bacteria communities within the groups. The type and number of walnuts altered in the group of mice that consumed walnuts. Even the functional capacity of the bacteria changed in this group. As an example, the research team pinpointed a meaningful boost in Lactobacillus, a beneficial bacteria. The consumption of walnuts resulted in a significant increase in the diversity of bacteria within the gut. Other unrelated studies have tied low levels of bacterial diversity with a wide range of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and even obesity.
Walnuts as a Prebiotic?
Dr. Byerley suggests walnuts might function as a prebiotic as they heighten the level of numerous bacteria such as Lactobacillus that is usually associated with probiotics. Prebiotics are best defined as substances that catalyze the activity and number of helpful bacteria.
Why the Study Matters
The health of the human gut is one of the hottest areas of contemporary research. Scientists are finding that improved bacterial diversity might be tied to improved health outcomes. The research team determined that altering the gut microbe community through the incorporation of walnuts to one's diet provides a new means of enhancing health. It is also worth noting that the consumption of walnuts is also tied to decreased cardiovascular disease risk, better brain health and a slowing of tumor growth in animals.
Lauri O. Byerley et al, Changes in the Gut Microbial Communities Following Addition of Walnuts to the Diet, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.07.001