The Gut-Friendly Reason New Research Supports A Plant-Based Diet

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Flatlay of Vegan Dish with Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Walnuts

To truly maximize your overall health and well-being, more and more research is highlighting the importance of tending to your gut. It houses 70% of our immune system; can influence weight, skin conditions, and inflammation; and a healthy gut has repeatedly been linked with longevity.

There are lots of ways to support gut health, with one new study offering yet another reason to consider going plant-based. According to new research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a vegan or vegetarian diet can improve gut health.

Understanding the metabolite TMAO.

First things first: This research was based on a particular metabolite called TMAO, or trimethylamine N-oxide. TMAO is produced in the body when we eat animal products—and it's been linked with a greater risk for heart attacks and heart disease.

So, to further study the effects of TMAO, study authors looked at existing research in a Nurses' Health Study, analyzing reports from 760 women who had recorded their eating, exercise, and smoking habits and provided two blood samples 10 years apart.

In the end, the women who developed coronary heart disease were found to have higher amounts of TMAO in their blood, and diet records indicated more meat and fewer vegetables than what was considered healthy. Further, the women with the greatest increases in TMAO after the 10-year follow-up had a 67% higher risk of coronary heart disease.

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Applying the findings.

This is the first study to look at the long-term effects of TMAO. Senior author of the study Lu Qi, M.D., says it not only shows how limiting TMAO levels could reduce coronary heart disease risk but also that gut health may be a "new area to explore in heart disease prevention."

And further, the study authors contend that a vegan or vegetarian diet can limit the amount of TMAO in the body. Stanford professor Paul Heidenreich, M.D., M.S., says the findings "strengthen the case for TMAO as a potential intervention target" hoping for "more widespread adoption of healthy eating patterns."

As we learn more about the functions of the gut microbiome, there can be no question that taking care of it (which almost always comes back to what you eat), supports health all around your body. If you're interested in embarking on a plant-based journey, be sure to check out our master grocery list and meal plan for a week's worth of vegan eats.

Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.

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