The Impact of Tea on Gut Microbiome

Rising rates of autoimmune conditions like food allergies, celiac and Inflammatory Bowel Disease have led to an increased interest in research on what is known as the gut microbiome. A new study indicates that tea drinkers may be ahead of the curve in this area.

The gut microbiome is the range of microorganisms that lives in a person’s intestines. Past studies have shown that this range of microbiota can affect overall health.

Illustration of female small intestine anatomy

The Flemish Gut Flora Project, from a group of Belgian researchers from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, is examining stool samples from 3,500 participants. (This is a striking number given that there was no compensation for participating and there are only 6 million residents of Flanders.) With analysis completed in one-third of the samples, they found that people who drank tea, coffee and wine, had a broader variety of microbes in the gut. The results were also compared with the Dutch LifeLines program from the University of Groningen.

The Belgian researchers identified 69 factors that they thought influenced the gut microbiome. The Dutch results confirmed 92% of them. Dairy products, fruits and vegetables, red wine, coffee and tea helped biome diversity, while high consumption of carbs and calories negatively affected results. Other factors that harmed the microbiome included antibiotics, laxatives, antihistamines, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The results of the Belgian study and Dutch study showed similarities, which is interesting given that there are broad genetic differences between those countries’ residents as well as vastly different dietary traditions. “…[T]here is a good correlation between diversity and health: greater diversity is better,” Alexander Zhernakova from the University Medical Center Groninger in the Netherlands, told media.

People who preferred drinks like soda and those who smoked, had less of a range of microbes.

It isn’t yet clear if there is an “ideal” microbiome or even a standard of “normal,” but researchers are keen to gain a greater understanding in the hopes of ameliorating the risks of many of these serious conditions.

The study, “Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity,” was published in the April 2016 issue of the journal “Science.”

SOURCE: News Quench, The Sacramento Bee, LA Times, Science