- A recent study observed the effects of tomato consumption on the gut microbiome in pigs.
- After 10 piglets were fed a diet of 10% freeze-dried tomato powder, their ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria shifted to a more favorable profile.
- The tomato-fed pigs also gained greater diversity in their gut microbial community, believed to be a sign of better gut health.
- The results could potentially lead to dietary recommendations for long-term health in humans.
Rich in the antioxidant lycopene and other essential nutrients, tomatoes are known for their health benefits.
But the implications of eating tomatoes on gut health are less well understood.
In a new study, researchers examined the effects of a tomato-rich diet on the gut microbiome using an animal model.
The researchers fed the piglets a tomato-enriched diet for 14 days and found that their gut bacteria balance shifted to a healthier and more favorable profile.
The results were recently published in Microbiological spectrum.
The study’s lead author, Jessica Cooperstone, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at The Ohio State University in Columbus, said Medical News Today:
“Tomato consumption has been correlated with a variety of positive health outcomes, and they are the second most consumed vegetable in the United States. About 22% of total vegetable intake comes from tomatoes, so we wish better understand the health effects of this commonly consumed food.
The researchers used 20 male piglets born in the summer of 2019 at the OSU Swine Facility in Dublin, OH. After being weaned from their sows, they were fed basal diet for 1 week.
Next, the researchers randomly assigned 10 piglets to a tomato-based diet consisting of freeze-dried tomato powder added to the basal diet. The remaining 10 piglets received the control diet, consisting of the base diet modified to match the sugar, fiber and other macronutrient content of the tomato-based diet.
“We wanted to make sure we could provide a consistent source of tomatoes to the pigs throughout the study,” Dr Cooperstone said.
“In Ohio, we can only grow tomatoes in the field to harvest them in late summer, so freezing drying serves as a preservation step. We wanted to incorporate the tomato into the staple diet pigs, and this feed is powdered,” she added.
The tomatoes from which the powder was derived were a hybrid grown at the Ohio State University (OSU) North Central Agricultural Research Station in Fremont, OH.
Additionally, to prevent non-food spread of bacteria, pigs were housed only with other members of their group on one side of a catwalk. The enclosures allowed for muzzle-to-muzzle contact between grouped mates.
At the end of the experiment, there was no difference in body weight between the two groups of piglets.
The researchers analyzed faecal samples from all the pigs at the start of the experiment, 7 days later, and again after 14 days.
Sequencing detected a change after 14 days in the ratio of Bacillote (the “bad” bacteria) to Bacteroidota (the “good” bacteria).
Both types or lineages of bacteria, known as phyla, contain a large number of bacteria, some of which may or may not be useful.
Researchers also observed greater bacterial diversity in samples from the tomato group, which may suggest better health.
While diversity is considered useful in the gut microbiome, there is still much
Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., not involved in the study, wondered what might have happened if the pigs had been fed regular tomatoes rather than with tomato powder.
Additionally, it is not yet clear whether the amount and duration of tomato consumption could have yielded different results and might warrant further study.
“There are a lot of questions that come out of a good study, and this is a good study,” Dr. Farhadi said. DTM.
Dr. Farhadi noted that it is difficult to make definitive comparisons between two species.
“We both have gut germs, [but] are they the same between us? There are no identical germs even between two individuals or in one individual over two days. Gut germs are so dynamic that even if you’re stressed for a period of an hour, the germs are different,” he explained.
Although pigs are not humans, there is reason to suspect that eating tomatoes could also benefit the human microbiome.
“We [are] gain a more detailed understanding of the impact of specific foods on human health,” said Dr Cooperstone.
“Previous studies have shown that the gastrointestinal tract of pigs is more similar to that of humans than mice are, which is why we chose to do this study in pigs.
studiesfound that the two major phyla of bacteria in the gut microbiome are the same between pigs and humans. We hope to move our human trials in the future.
– Jessica Cooperstone, Ph.D., lead study author
Talk to Ohio State News About the study, Dr Cooperstone said a better understanding of the effects of different foods on gut health “could lead to more evidence-based dietary recommendations for long-term health”.
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