Eating a Mediterranean-style diet protects your liver

If you want a healthy liver and gut, an article on EurekAlert! recommended taking up a Mediterranean-style diet. A study on American and Turkish patients with liver cirrhosis showed that eating fermented milk products and vegetables – plus moderate amounts of chocolate, coffee, and tea – could reduce the chances of serious complications that send you to the hospital.

Such a diet would also benefit the diversity of the beneficial bacteria living in the gut, which contributes to the protection of the liver.

The study was comprised of nearly 300 participants in the U.S. and Turkey. They were divided into three groups: Healthy individuals, patients with compensated cirrhosis, and patients with decompensated cirrhosis. (Related: Salep (orchid extract) found to offer protective effects against isoniazid medication toxicity of the liver.)

According to the results, all of the Turkish participants showed much better microbial diversity than the American cohort.

Cirrhosis of the liver claims more than a million lives every year. While it is a serious and increasing cause of death, it is also easy to prevent.

The amount of alcohol consumption, the type and quality of alcohol that is drunk, and the levels of viral hepatitis B and C are the main factors that determine the risk of death from liver cirrhosis. These factors differ from country to country.

Furthermore, there is a link between gut microbiota and the development and progression of cirrhosis. Microbial diversity was shown to progressively weaken in all three groups.

Experts say diet affects gut microbe diversity and liver cirrhosis

The study’s lead author, Dr. Jasmohan Bajaj, explained that diet plays a big role in deciding what microbes are found in the gut. His research team wished to find out if there was a link between diet, microbial diversity, and their effects on patients suffering from cirrhosis.

Bajaj theorized that the interaction between diet and cirrhosis affected the composition of gut bacteria, which in turn affected the overall health of a patient.

His study recruited health individuals who served as controls, outpatients who showed no signs of cirrhosis, and outpatients who suffered from symptoms of liver cirrhosis like jaundice. The diets and stool microbiota of all participants were analyzed.

Furthermore, researchers followed the participants with liver cirrhosis for a minimum of 90 days. This was done to get data regarding unplanned hospitalizations.

The American group generally adhered to a Western diet. They consumed low amounts of fermented foods and large amounts of coffee and carbonated drinks.

The Turkish group practiced a Mediterranean-style diet. They ate a lot of ayran, curds, and yogurt, which are all fermented milk products. They also consumed a lot of vegetables.

Mediterranean diet improves gut microbe diversity, reduces health complications

Analysis of stool samples showed that Turkish participants had much more varied gut microbiota than the U.S. group. Furthermore, both healthy control group members and patients with cirrhosis shared the same level of bacterial diversity.

In the U.S. control group, diversity was highest in the healthy control group, while the outpatients with decompensated cirrhosis had the lowest. The U.S. group also experienced a much higher frequency of hospitalizations during the 90-day follow up, be it related to liver cirrhosis or caused by other health problems.

Consuming chocolate, coffee, fermented milk, tea, and vegetables increased microbial diversity. In contrast, the use of lactulose – a synthetic sugar used to alleviate symptoms of liver cirrhosis – and carbonated drink led to lower diversity.

University of Bern professor Annalisa Berzigotti remarked that the study showed the Mediterranean-style diet exerted a protective effect during all phases of chronic liver diseases.

Find out how healthy eating habits can maintain your good health at

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