Scientists have discovered yet more evidence for the superiority of the Mediterranean diet, with a new study showing it is good for the gut.

The Mediterranean diet is characterised by a high intake of fruit and vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts, a moderate intake of fish, moderate alcohol consumption and low intake of red meat, saturated fat and full fat dairy products.

Previous research has found people following a Mediterranean dietary pattern have a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Now, microbiologists from the University of Naples in Italy say they have tangible evidence of a positive impact on the community of trillions of microorganisms that live in the gut, which are collectively known as the gut microbiota.

A healthy gut microbiota is linked to a healthy immune system and less risk of obesity and diabetes.

The gut microbiota flourishes on plant-based foods and from the fermentation of insoluble fibre from our diet, produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs have been linked to a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The lower the level of fibre in your diet, the lower your level of health-promoting SCFAs. However, following the Mediterranean diet is linked to a beneficial rise in SCFAs normally associated with strict vegetarian or vegan diets, they say.

“Subjects who consume a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, legumes and vegetables have higher levels of faecal short-chain fatty acids,” write the researchers in the journal Gut. This finding is consistent across all Mediterranean diet types, including vegan, vegetarian and omnivore (plant and animal foods) versions.

They conclude that their study provides evidence that a healthy diet and a Mediterranean diet pattern impacts on the gut microbiota and regulation of its metabolism towards maintaining health in people.

They add: “Western omnivore diets are not necessarily detrimental when a certain consumption level of plant food is included.”

Last Reviewed: 01/10/2015



de Filippis F, et al. High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome. Gut Published Online first Sept 28, 2015.