It has long been known that a high bacterial diversity in the intestinal flora (intestinal microbiome) has positive effects on health. However, it has now been demonstrated for the first time how plant microorganisms from fruit and vegetables increase this diversity.
In a recent study, a research team from the Institute for Environmental Biotechnology at the Graz University of Technology investigated whether there is a connection between the microbiome of fruit and vegetables and the bacterial diversity of the human intestinal flora. The study results are published in the specialist magazine “Gut Microbes”.
Promotes high bacterial diversity
The bacterial diversity in the human intestine has a significant influence on our health and previous studies have already shown that diet can significantly change the composition of the intestinal flora.
According to the research team, however, the extent to which bacteria associated with fruit and vegetables contribute to the overall bacterial diversity in the intestine remains an open question.
Microbiome of fruits and vegetables analyzed
Using an analysis of the microbiome of 156 types of fruit and vegetables as well as the metagenome data from 2,426 stool samples, the researchers now examined possible connections. Information on the participants’ food intake was also taken into account.
When evaluating the extensive data set, it was shown that the microflora of fruits and vegetables can also be detected in the intestine, reports the team. In addition, the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption and the variety of plants consumed influence the amount of plant-associated bacteria in the human intestine.
Plant microorganisms in the human intestine
“It has now been proven for the first time that microorganisms from fruits and vegetables can colonize the human intestine,” emphasizes study author Wisnu Adi Wicaksono from Graz University of Technology.
The microorganisms of plant origin develop probiotic and health-promoting properties, which have also been demonstrated, the researchers explain. Early childhood in particular could be an important time window for colonization with plant-associated bacteria.
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By consuming plant-based foods, the bacterial diversity in our intestines can be increased, whereby this diversity of intestinal bacteria influences the resistance of the entire organism and a higher diversity provides more resilience, adds study author Gabriele Berg.
Validation of the One Health approach
The evidence of the connection between human intestinal flora and the microbiome of fruits and vegetables also supports the WHO’s “One Health” approach, which establishes a close connection between the health of humans, animals and the environment.
For example, the plant microbiome is influenced by soil, fertilizer and pesticides used during food production. Fresh fruit and vegetables will always have the best microbiome, says Berg.
The storage and processing of food must also be reconsidered with regard to the microbiome of plant-based foods. In addition, new intervention options could be derived from future studies in which certain foods are specifically used to strengthen the intestinal flora.
“Every fruit and vegetable has a unique microbiome. So maybe a personalized diet can be put together based on this at some point,” hopes Berg. (fp)