Nutrition news

A diet rich in polyphenols improves gut permeability in the elderly


Increased intestinal permeability is associated with factors such as aging, food allergies and intolerances, and unhealthy diets. This alteration causes a reduction in the barrier of intestinal integrity which triggers the transit of substances potentially toxic to the blood, and is linked to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or even Alzheimer’s disease.

A diet rich in polyphenols improves gut permeability in the elderly, according to an article published in the journal Clinical nutrition. The study is led by Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and Head of the Research Group on Biomarkers and Nutritional Metabolomics of Foods at the University of Barcelona and the Research Center biomedical research on frailty and healthy aging (CIBERFES), also member of the Catalan Food Innovation Network (XIA).

This European study, carried out as part of the Joint Programming Initiative – A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life (JPI HDHL), was carried out in people over the age of sixty who had followed a diet rich in polyphenols for eight weeks. The results show that including up to three daily servings of apple, cocoa, dark chocolate, green tea, cranberry, orange or pomegranate juice improves gut permeability during specific changes in the gut microbiota.

According to experts Gregorio Perón and Tomás Meroño (UB-INSA and CIBERFES), “we have studied the existing relationship between the metabolism of food elements, the microbiota and intestinal permeability, analyzing the changes caused by a substance rich in polyphenols. feeding in the microbiota of the participants in our study and testing the resulting improvement in their intestinal barrier “.

Analysis of plasma and faecal samples showed an increase in serum metabolome related to polyphenol intake. “For example, theobromine and methylxanthine derived from cocoa and green tea─ are positively correlated with bacteria producing butyrate (a fatty acid of the intestinal flora), and conversely with zonulin, a protein linked to intestinal permeability” , note the authors.

The study of the relationship between intestinal permeability, the composition of the microbiota and food metabolism must be the basis for establishing personalized diets for each stage of life, in particular for the elderly “.

Professor Cristina Andrés-Lacueva

Diet and Lifestyle Changes for Healthy Aging

In short, changes in lifestyle and diet are decisive as a strategy for preventing intestinal permeability associated with aging and chronic diseases. “Higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, and foods such as those described in this article provides fiber and polyphenols that may help counteract the damage to permeability caused by aging,” notes Andrés-Lacueva.

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Quadram Institute (United Kingdom) and the University of Milan and the University of Perugia (Italy), and funded by the international joint programming initiatives PCIN-2015-238, also received support from European Regional Development (ERDF) and the former Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO) through the Joint Programming Initiative – Healthy Foods for Healthy Lives.


Journal reference:

Péron, G., et al. (2021) Crosstalk between gut barrier, gut microbiota, and serum metabolome after a polyphenol-rich diet in older subjects with “leaky gut: the MaPLE trial. Clinical Nutrition.


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