A new study from the University of Iowa (USA) suggests that the metabolism of plant-based food substances by specific gut bacteria – absent in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) – may provide a shield against the disease.
The study led by Ashutosh Mangalam, associate professor of pathology at IU, shows that a diet rich in isoflavones (a phytoestrogen or a herbal compound that resembles estrogen) offers protection against certain symptoms like those multiple sclerosis.
Soybeans and peanuts
The results of this study, carried out in mice, were only conclusive when the mice possessed gut microbes capable of break down isoflavones. The results were published on July 9 in Science Advances. “It is interesting to note that previous human studies have shown that patients with multiple sclerosis do not have these bacteria compared to people without MS,” recalls Professor Mangalam. Before adding: “Our new study provides evidence that the combination of dietary isoflavones and these isoflavone-metabolizing gut bacteria can serve as a potential treatment for MS.”
Where can you find these isoflavones? They hide in soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas and other legumes. Researchers have found that a diet devoid of isoflavones promotes a microbiome similar to that seen in patients with MS.
A protective diet
Through this study, researchers found that this specific diet allowed to protect oneself from diseases. However, when the team removed the gut bacteria capable of metabolizing these substances, the diet was no longer able to protect against disease. “This study suggests that an isoflavone diet may be protective as long as the intestinal bacteria metabolizing isoflavones are present in the intestines,” summarized the lead author.
In previous work, this team has demonstrated the existence of significant differences between the gut microbes of MS patients and others. Specifically, patients with MS lacked bacteria capable of metabolizing isoflavones.