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Vegetarians Show Healthier Gut Flora

If you're having digestive problems, you may want to consider adding more grains and vegetables and less meat to your diet. According to researchers at the University Hospital in Tubingen, Germany, the high fiber content of a vegetarian diet may contribute to healthier gut flora.

The findings were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition online ahead of print on August 3, 2011.

In order to determine the differences between a vegetarian, vegan, and omnivorous diet, the researchers examined fecal samples from 144 vegetarians and 105 vegans and compared them to fecal samples taken from individuals who consume an omnivorous diet.

They found that total microbial counts were the same across all three groups, but that vegans had lower counts of Bacteroides spp., Bifidobacerium spp, E. coli, and Enterobacteriaceae spp. Vegetarians had more of these harmful bacteria than vegans, but less than omnivores.

They also noted that mean pH values differed, with vegans measuring in at 6.3, vegetarians at 6.6, and omnivores at 6.9.

The researchers believe that these findings are a result of the higher fiber and carbohydrate content of vegetarian diets, which leads to lower pH and higher acidity and makes it difficult for harmful bacteria to thrive.

Previous research has linked vegetarian diets with combating cancer and better overall health. If you're interested in converting to a vegetarian diet, consult a nutritionist to make sure you're getting all of the proper nutrients. Many vegetarians choose to supplement their diets with high quality supplements.

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