The Mediterranean diet promotes the intestinal barrier integrity

Thanks to numerous scientific studies, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet are unquestionable. This dietary profile is associated with the prevention of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. As all these pathologies are associated with the impairment of the intestinal barrier, a group of German researchers wondered whether the Mediterranean diet, through the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), could promote the intestinal health.

A study was conducted on 260 women with altered intestinal permeability, assaying lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) in plasma and zonulin in faeces. The higher the concentrations of these substances, the more they indicate altered intestinal permeability. The participants were then divided into two groups, an intervention group that was asked to follow a Mediterranean diet for three months, and a control group. For each participant, faecal SCFAs concentrations were also measured.

Data analysis showed a significant increase in adherence to the Mediterranean diet in the intervention group and a reduction in both plasma LBP and faecal zonulin concentrations. Another interesting finding was that faecal SFCAs concentrations increased, notably by 19% for propionate and 44% for butyrate.

In conclusion, the results of this study show that a healthy and balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet has beneficial effects on gut health, especially through a higher production of short-chain fatty acids. 

Source: Seethaler B, et al. Short-chain fatty acids are key mediators of the favorable effects of the Mediterranean diet on intestinal barrier integrity: data from the randomized controlled LIBRE trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022;116:928-942.