Tomatoes appear to have a tremendously positive impact on gut health. A study from the USA now shows that the microbiome of pigs improves enormously if they are fed a diet rich in tomatoes for two weeks. The researchers consider it likely that the new findings also apply to humans.
Good news for fans of pasta with tomato sauce, tomato salad, tomato soup & Co.: Your favorite fruit could have contributed to a great extent to the fact that you enjoy the best intestinal health. Because researchers at Ohio State University found that a two-week diet rich in tomatoes increased the diversity of the microbiome. In addition to its positive properties for skin, heart and men’s health, the tomato thus reveals another “super power”.
Impact of tomatoes on gut health unknown
Although tomatoes are one of the most popular “health foods” among Germans, it seems there is still a lot to learn about them. They make up about 22 percent of the vegetable intake in the Western diet, and are considered to be good if “Cancer Fright”. But their impact on gut health is still a mystery. “This was our first investigation into how tomato consumption might affect the microbiome,” explains study leader Prof. Jessica Cooperstone in a university statement.1 According to her own statements, the scientist herself did not expect the surprisingly informative results of her study, which were recently published in the specialist journal “Microbiology Spectrum”. 2
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Study with 20 piglets
Since the gastrointestinal tract of pigs is more similar to the human digestive system than that of mice, the researchers chose 20 piglets as their subjects. At the beginning of the study, the status of their microbiome in the intestine was determined for all of them. Ten of them were fed their normal food, the other ten were given a diet that consisted of 10 percent freeze-dried tomatoes. Fiber, sugar, protein, fat and calories were the same for both diets. The two groups of piglets lived separately, and the researchers conducting the study minimized their time spent with the pigs. They wanted to ensure that as many changes in the microbiome as possible can be traced back to the tomatoes.
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How tomatoes change the microbiome in the gut
Two weeks later, the researchers re-examined the microbiome of the little pigs. The results revealed two main changes in the microbiomes of those animals fed a tomato-rich diet: the diversity of microbial species in their gut increased and the concentrations of two types of bacteria shifted to a more favorable profile. After just two weeks, the tomatoes provided improved gut health.
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“Bad” intestinal bacteria exchanged for “good”.
The researchers also found that the number of Firmicutes – bacteria associated with obesity – decreased, while the good Bacteroidota increased significantly. For study leader Cooperstone and her team, it is clear that this effect is entirely due to the tomatoes.
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Human studies should provide further information
In the pigs, the tomatoes improved intestinal health within a very short time. Does that also apply to humans? “To really understand the mechanisms, we now need to do human studies,” notes Cooperstone. “We also want to understand the complex interaction. How does the consumption of tomatoes change the composition of the microbes present and what is the functional effect of this?” All these questions should now be researched as soon as possible. Until then, there is nothing to prevent double access to tomatoes.