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Health benefits of horchata proven: Better gut bacteria in three days
Monday, May 9, 2022 @ 12:19 PM

A REFRESHING and nourishing drink native to the Comunidad Valenciana could turn out to be a huge ally in maintaining healthy gut bacteria – a fine but crucial balance that can cause a multitude of wellbeing issues when it is out of synch.

Horchata, or orxata in the regional language, valenciano, is very different on Spain's east coast to the type found in México, which readers in the USA may be more familiar with: It's made from the milky juice of tigernuts with added water and sugar.

The result is like a milkshake, but not an overly creamy one, and the flavour could be described as a mixture of almond and coconut.

Most newcomers to the Valencia region, when they first try it, find it an 'acquired taste', one they would rather experience in shot-glasses than pint-glasses, but the majority find it 'grows on them' fairly quickly, and a supermarket-bought litre carton – typically around €1 in price – might only last them a day or two.

But the study carried out at Spain's National Research Council (CSIC) used exclusively non-pasteurised horchata, with its full starch content left in and without added sugar.

This much more 'natural' and less-processed version of horchata is more likely to be found in a delicatessen, typically at a higher price, or bought from street-vendors in Valencia city – normally relatively cheaply, and frequently with a fartón, or bread-like finger of cake coated in icing sugar, to dip in it.

The Food Technology and Agro-Chemistry Institute, IATA – not to be confused with the international air-travel association – took 35 volunteers and had them drink 300ml of horchata a day for three days.

After this, says the research results published in the scientific journal Nutrients, investigators examined participants' intestinal flora.

This had been checked before the experiment in each of the participants, who are all adults and in good general health.

A microbiotic DNA-sequencing showed up three broad profiles of gut bacteria before the three-day horchata-drinking, and in all cases, these had changed after the experiment.

They were all 'enriched with various beneficial bacteria', including germinating butyrate, which is 'a substance with multiple benefits for the intestine and the immune system', the research team says.

“In just three days, the bacteria population in all volunteers changed towards healthier microbial patterns, similar to those triggered by a vegetarian or Mediterranean diet,” says research team leader Gaspar Pérez.

Bacteria generated as a result of drinking horchata included Akkermansia, associated with weight loss; Christenellaceae and Clostridial; Faecalibacterium, associated with glucose control; Bifidobacterium and Lachnospira.



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