News Release

Plant-based foods and Mediterranean diet associated with healthy gut microbiome

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Spink Health


image: This is a summary of the key findings in relation to food or food pattern and effect on the gut microbiota. view more 

Credit: UEG

(Barcelona, October 21, 2019) A study presented at UEG Week 2019 has shown that specific foods could provide protection for the gut, by helping bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties to thrive.

Researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands have found that certain foods including legumes, bread, fish, nuts and wine are associated with high levels of friendly gut bacteria that aids the biosynthesis of essential nutrients and the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the main source of energy for cells lining the colon. The findings support the idea that the diet could be an effective management strategy for intestinal diseases, through the modulation of the gut bacteria.

The experts observed four study groups, the general population, patients with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The researchers analysed a stool sample provided by each participant to reconstruct the host's microbiota and compared this with the results of a food frequency survey. The results identified 61 individual food items associated with microbial populations and 49 correlations between food patterns and microbial groups.

The experts found that:

  • Dietary patterns rich in bread, legumes, fish and nuts, were associated with a decrease in potentially harmful, aerobic bacteria. Higher consumption of these foods was also associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers in stool that are known to rise during intestinal inflammation

  • A higher intake of meat, fast foods or refined sugar was associated with a decrease in beneficial bacterial functions and an increase in inflammatory markers

  • Red wine, legumes, vegetables, fruit, cereals, fish and nuts were associated with a higher abundance of bacteria with anti-inflammatory functions

  • Plant-based diets were found to be associated with high levels of bacterial SCFA production, the main source of energy for cells lining the colon

  • Plant protein was found to help the biosynthesis of vitamins and amino acids as well as the breaking down of sugar alcohols and ammonium excretion

  • Animal-derived and plant-derived protein showed opposite associations on the gut microbiota

Gut microbiota:

Gut microbiota is the term given to the microbe population living in the intestine. Studies have shown that gut microbes play an important role in human health, including immune, metabolic and neurobehavioral traits. Links have also been made to obesity and a lack of diversity of the microbiota has been shown in people with inflammatory diseases such as IBD, psoriatic arthritis, diabetes, atopic eczema, coeliac disease and arterial stiffness. In these diseases, certain diets have been implicated as risk factors and this new research indicates that gut microbiota may help explain the link between diet and disease.

The burden of intestinal diseases:

Intestinal diseases represent a significant cost burden to the European economy, population and healthcare systems. Approximately 3 million people in Europe are affected by IBD and it has an estimated direct healthcare cost of up to €5.6 billion. Obesity presents an even bigger public health concern, with over 50% of the European population considered overweight or obese and associated costs of €81 billion each year.

Commenting, lead researcher Laura Bolte said, "We looked in depth at the association between dietary patterns or individual foods and gut microbiota. Connecting the diet to the gut microbiome gives us more insight into the relation between diet and intestinal disease. The results indicate that diet is likely to become a significant and serious line of treatment or disease management for diseases of the gut - by modulating the gut microbiome".

To conclude the dietary recommendations that could be derived from the study, Bolte added, "A diet characterised by nuts, fruits, greater vegetable and legume intake than animal protein, combined with moderate consumption of animal derived foods like fish, lean meat, poultry, fermented low fat dairy, and red wine, and a lower intake of red meat, processed meat and sweets, is beneficially associated with the gut ecosystem in our study."


Notes to Editors

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Laura Bolte, please contact Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or

We kindly ask that a reference to UEG Week 2019 is included when communicating any information within this press release.

About Laura Bolte

Laura Bolte is a dietician currently pursuing an MD and PhD in the field of nutrition and the gut microbiome. Her research is conducted at the dept. of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) under supervision of Prof. Rinse Weersma. She graduated with a degree in Nutritional Sciences in Germany, where she performed research on diet-mediated endocrine and metabolic changes in diabetes, obesity as well as malnutrition.

The research presented at UEG Week 2019 has been subject of her medical thesis and is nominated as best thesis at the UMCG. Laura's research interests also extend to the diet-gut microbiome relation in melanoma, aiming to identify dietary factors and microbial targets to improve responsiveness to immunotherapy in cancer patients.

About UEG Week

UEG Week is the largest and most prestigious gastroenterology meeting in Europe and has developed into a global congress. It attracts over 14,000 participants each year, from more than 120 countries, and numbers are steadily rising. UEG Week provides a forum for basic and clinical scientists from across the globe to present their latest research in digestive and liver diseases, and also features a two-day postgraduate course that brings together top lecturers in their fields for a weekend of interactive learning.

About UEG

UEG, or United European Gastroenterology, is a professional non-profit organisation combining all the leading European medical specialist and national societies focusing on digestive health. Together, its member societies represent over 30,000 specialists, working across medicine, surgery, paediatrics, gastrointestinal oncology and endoscopy. This makes UEG the most comprehensive organisation of its kind in the world, and a unique platform for collaboration and the exchange of knowledge.

To advance the standards of gastroenterological care and knowledge across the world and to reduce the burden of digestive diseases, UEG offers numerous activities and initiatives, including:

  • UEG Week, the biggest congress of its kind in Europe, and one of the two largest in the world

  • UEG Education, the universal source of knowledge in gastroenterology, providing online and classroom courses, a huge online library and delivering the latest GI news, fostering debate and discussion

  • Activity Grants, promoting and funding educational projects in the field of digestive health to advance and harmonise the training and continuing education of professionals

  • UEG Journal, covering translational and clinical studies from all areas of gastroenterology

  • Public Affairs, promoting research, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases, and helping develop an effective health policy for Europe

  • Quality of Care, European-based and English clinical practice guidelines, clinical standards, consensus, position papers and standard protocols in the field of digestive health, are available in the repository.

Find out more about UEG's work by visiting or contact:

Luke Paskins on +44 (0)1444 811099 or

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1. Bolte, L. et al. 2019. Towards anti-inflammatory dietary recommendations based on the relation between food and the gut microbiome composition in 1423 individuals. Presented at UEG Week Barcelona October 21, 2019.

2. Valdes, Ana M., et al. "Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health." Bmj 361 (2018): k2179.

3. Journal of Crohn's and Colitis. 2013. The burden of inflammatory bowel disease in Europe. Available at: https://

4. Eurostat. (2019). Overweight and obesity - BMI statistics. Available at:

5. Cuschieri, S., & Mamo, J. (2016). Getting to grips with the obesity epidemic in Europe. SAGE Open Medicine, 4, 2050312116670406.

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