The summer months are a peak time for fruit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slice up an apple or peel an orange as the temps drop (delicious citrus may just be one of the best things about winter!). In fact, a new study shows that these beloved fruits could play a key role in preventing leaky gut and regulating your digestive health as you get older. That’s all thanks to some incredibly helpful compounds called polyphenols.
Leaky gut is a phenomenon where our intestinal walls thin over time, largely due to age, diet, genetics, and a number of other factors, which cause food, toxins, and chemicals to seep into the tissues around your intestinal tract. This can lead to a number of health complications, including fatigue, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Polyphenols play a critical role in the body, as they often behave like antioxidants to prevent blood clots, lower blood sugar, and most importantly, fight off harmful gut bacteria while promoting beneficial ones.
In new research published in Clinical Nutrition, scientists put 51 adults over the age of 60 on a polyphenol-rich diet for eight weeks to see how it affected intestinal permeability and the gut’s microbiome. This included foods and beverages such as apples, cocoa, dark chocolate, green tea, cranberries, oranges, and pomegranate juice up to three times per day. Researchers took blood and fecal samples from participants and had them undergo physical exams over the course of the study to track their progress.
By the end of the two-month period, results showed that these foods, especially fruits, were correlated with creating and maintaining several key bacteria that promote gut health and keep the intestinal wall strong. Inversely, eating a polyphenol-rich meal also decreased the production of proteins that led to more fragile intestinal walls.
Researchers hope that their results draw more attention to how a healthy diet can affect symptoms of aging, like a leaky gut. “A higher intake of fruits, vegetables, and foods such as those described in this paper provide fiber and polyphenols that could help counterbalance the damaging of permeability due to aging,” explained Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, a professor at the University of Barcelona, in a press release. She also hopes that digestive health takes more precedence when healthcare professionals are working with older patients on their diets and overall well-being.
So the next time you’re making a meal, considering adding a favorite fruit or two to the mix!