Men who follow a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes fart more, and have larger stools than men following a standard Western diet, a new study has revealed.
While this has been widely presumed for years, researchers from the Liver and Digestive Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre in Barcelona set out to quantify the extent of the effect.
The team followed 18 healthy men, and found that those following a plant-based diet farted seven times more per day and had stools twice the size as people following a Western diet on average.
This may sound pretty disgusting, but the researchers reassure that it’s actually a good thing, because flatulence and large stools are a sign of healthy gut bacteria.
‘Our Western idea that farting is a sign of something being wrong is totally false,’ Rosemary Stanton, a researcher from the University of New South Wales told New Scientist.
‘Farting is a sign of a healthy diet and a healthy colon.’
Men who follow a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes fart more, and have larger stools than men following a standard Western diet, a new study has revealed (stock image)
The team followed 18 healthy men, and found that those following a plant-based diet (FMD) farted seven times more per day and had stools twice the size as people following a Western diet (WD) on average
WHAT IS FLATULENCE?
Medical experts define flatulence as gas, either generated in the stomach or bowels or inhaled from the air, which is expelled through the anus.
The volume and frequency of flatulence can vary greatly between individuals.
According to the NHS, the average person farts somewhere between 5–15 times each day.
To minimise wind, they recommend eating and drinking slowly, exercising to improve digestion and consuming a balanced diet.
Excessively pungent flatulence can result from consuming difficult-to-eat food and can sometimes be a sign of a health condition.
In the study, the team compared the guts of 18 healthy men aged 18-38.
The participants were randomly assigned either a plant-based Mediterranean diet, or a Western-style diet, which they followed for two weeks, before swapping to the other.
Throughout the study, the men collected and weighed their stools using digital scales, and logged their number of farts with a handheld tracker.
The amount of gas released in their farts was also tested using balloons fitted to the men’s rectums.
The results revealed that the men did a similar number of stools per day on the two diets.
However, those following the plant-based diet had significantly larger stools, around twice the size of those on the Western diet.
Meanwhile, the handheld counters revealed that men on the plant-based diet farted seven times more per day on average, containing about 50 per cent more gas.
According to Ms Stanton, who was not involved in the study, eating plants promotes certain types of bacteria in our guts, which survive on fermented plant fibre.
These extra bacteria can account for the majority of the added stool weight in the participants following a plant-based diet, she explained to New Scientist.
The participants were randomly assigned either a plant-based Mediterranean diet (stock image pictured), or a Western-style diet, which they followed for two weeks, before swapping to the other
Meanwhile the increase in farting can be explained by the rise in hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide – gases produced by the gut bacteria as they ferment plant fibres.
The study comes shortly after researchers from the University of Minnesota found that following a plant-based diet can slash the risk of heart disease by up to 52 per cent.
A variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless fish and chicken, nuts and legumes are all key to staving off health problems later in life.
Conversely, researchers advise that young adults limit saturated fat, salt, red meat, sweets and sugary drinks to prevent heart attacks in middle-age.
While they didn’t look at the reason behind the link, previous research suggests plant-based diets can lower your blood pressure, improve cholesterol and help you lose weight – all risk factors for heart disease.
‘A nutritionally rich, plant-centred diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health,’ lead author Yuni Choi said.
‘A plant-centred diet is not necessarily vegetarian. People can choose among plant foods that are as close to natural as possible, not highly processed.’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide