It does not take a genius to realise that regular intake of fast food is not good for you. It increases cholesterol, risk of getting diabetes, promotes obesity – the list just goes on and on. However, a new research from the Netherlands reveals it can lead to an unhealthy gut microbiome. What is gut microbiome, you ask? It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in your bowels that affect anything in your body, from inflammation to heart health.
An unhealthy microbiome increases your risk for inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as diabetes and even cancer. Researchers who conducted the study with 1,425 people said that those who consumed a diet high in processed and animal-derived fatty foods had greater levels of destructive bacteria that produce toxins that harm the gut.
Meanwhile, people with a diet consisting of more plants and fish had higher levels of healthy bacteria with anti-inflammatory effects. Dr Rudolph Bedford, gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, was quoted by Healthline as saying, “The microbiome contains trillions and trillions of microbes and microorganisms. The gut microbiome essentially helps to train the immune system in childhood and adulthood, recognise and react to various harmful microbes that may enter the body also helping to the immune health. The microbiome is a very important aspect of our general health.”
What can one eat for a healthy microbiome?
The study looked into dietary habits that increase colonies of healthy bacteria, particularly Roseburia, Faecalibacterium, and Eubacterium. Researchers of the study wrote, “We showed that dietary patterns comprising legumes, breads, fish and nuts are associated with a lower abundance of clusters of opportunistic bacteria, pathways for the synthesis of endotoxins and inflammatory markers in stool. Higher proportions of these bacteria and pathways have been implicated in IBD and colorectal cancer.”
On the other hand, diets too high in fatty foods and meat were associated with higher levels of more harmful bacteria. They wrote, “We here observed a positive association of the total fat intake and meat consumption with species that are dominant in the upper GI tract and oral cavity, while the opposite direction was found for plant-derived foods. Higher colonization of these bacteria in the intestine has been reported in IBD, liver cirrhosis, colon cancer.”
If you find yourself in situations where fast food joints are the answer, the smart thing to do would switch to salads. However, make sure to cut down on the amount of dressing.