Adding Peanuts and Spices to the Diet Can Improve Gut Health in 4-6 Weeks

Adding Peanuts and Spices to the Diet Can Improve Gut Health in 4-6 Weeks

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Adding a variety of spices and nuts to their diet can help improve gut health. Xvision/Getty Images
  • Researchers recently investigated the effects of peanuts, herbs and spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cumin and turmeric, on the gut microbiome in two separate studies.
  • They found that peanuts, along with herbs and spices, increased levels of certain gut bacteria after just 4 to 6 weeks of addition to a typical American diet.
  • They noted that further research is needed to understand the implications of their findings and the possible health benefits of having more gut bacteria.

Diet influences the types of bacteria that live in the gut. These bacteria are linked to multiple measures of health, including blood sugar control, which is important for regulating blood sugar, immune responseand cardiovascular risk factors.

Studies show that intestinal bacteria feed on fiber-rich foods. Research also shows that herbs and spices high in polyphenols, chemicals with antioxidant properties, can influence gut bacteria or the composition of the gut microbiome.

Meanwhile, a systematic review of nut consumption found that almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios increase the diversity of gut bacteria. So far, however, no studies have looked at the effects of peanuts on the microbiome.

Further study of the effects of dietary agents such as herbs, spices, and peanuts on gut bacteria could help inform preventive health care strategies and therapeutics.

Recently, researchers conducted two studies on the impact of peanut, herb, and spice consumption on the gut microbiome. They found that all three ingredients increased the diversity of gut bacteria after only 4-6 weeks of consumption.

The studies have been published in The Nutrition Diaryand Clinical nutrition.

To study the effects of herbs and spices on the microbiome, the researchers recruited 54 adults with an average age of 45. All of the participants were obese or overweight and had at least one other cardiovascular risk factor, such as high blood sugar or triglycerides.

The researchers fed 48 participants the same diet for four weeks with one of three doses of spices and herbs: 0.5 g per day, 3.3 g per day, or 6.6 grams per day.

Participants ate all three amounts of herbs and spices for four weeks with a two-week “washout” period in between. Spices included cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme.

They provided fecal samples at the start of the study and at the end of each diet period.

Researchers found that consuming 3.3 grams or 6.6 grams of herbs or spices per day increased levels of Ruminococcaceae bacteria.

The highest levels of Ruminococcaceae bacteria were observed among those who consumed the highest levels of herbs and spices.

For the peanut study, the researchers recruited 50 adults who had high fasting blood sugar and were either overweight or obese.

They asked participants to consume 28 grams of peanuts or crackers and cheese each day as an evening snack.

All participants tried both diets for six weeks with a four-week washout period in between. The researchers took fecal samples from the participants at the start of the study and at the end of each dietary intervention.

They found that those who ate peanuts had higher levels of Ruminococcaceae bacteria in their fecal samples than those who ate crackers and cheese.

They further noted that those who ate peanuts also had higher levels of Roseburia bacteria than at the start of the study.

Studies suggest that Roseburia is linked to weight loss and reduced glucose intolerance.

Asked about the health benefits of Ruminococcaceae, Dr. Lona Sandon, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition in the School of Health Professions at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, said Medical News Today that studies have not specifically looked at the health benefits of these ingredients.

“However, it appears that Ruminococcaceae increase bacteria that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid which, when produced in higher amounts, can help control appetite, energy balance and improve blood sugar,” Dr. Sandon said.

How peanuts and herbs might increase gut microbiome diversity is still not entirely clear.

“In addition to being a source of protein and healthy fats, peanuts are also a source of fiber. Bacteria in the gut feed on fiber. With more fiber in the diet, more bacteria and a greater variety of bacteria can thrive in the gut,” Dr. Sandon said.

“When it comes to herbs and spices, the theory is that polyphenol compounds, the chemicals found in herbs and spices as well as foods like dark cocoa, wine, grapes, berries and cherries, provide a food source or help create an environment in the gut that supports the growth of a wider variety of bacteria,” she added.

“Polyphenols [in peanuts, herbs, and spices] are known to promote health in various ways, such as reducing the risk of cancer or reducing inflammation. The way they work to promote health may be through changes in the gut microbiome.
—Dr. Canvas sandon

The researchers concluded that adding small amounts of peanuts, herbs, or spices to the diet may increase the abundance of certain gut bacteria.

The researchers noted, however, that more research is needed to find out how an increased abundance of these bacteria might impact overall health.

Asked about the limitations of the studies, Dr. Sandon pointed to the small sample sizes and the short duration of the studies.

“[This makes] makes it difficult to conclude what might happen in the long term. Additionally, the studies did not look specifically for health effects, but rather aimed to determine how the change in diet affected the microbiome. We cannot draw conclusions about health impacts from these results,” she said.

DTM also spoke with Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Hunnes is also the author of Recipe for survival: what you can do to live a healthier and more environmentally friendly life.

She noted that another limitation of the studies is their limited focus, meaning only on peanuts as opposed to a wider variety of tree nuts or legumes.

“I would like to see a future study that looks at overall diet quality and not just a specific food or nutrient, otherwise known as ‘nutritional reductionism’ or nutritionism,” she said.

She also noted that the studies were funded by the industries themselves: The Peanut Institute, a nonprofit that promotes healthy lifestyles that include peanut consumption, and the Spice and Herb Company. McCormick.

“[This doesn’t mean the [studies are bad]it just means they have a stake in the results,” she noted.

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