You’ve probably heard it all before that fast food is low in nutrients, but high in calories. Surely, these highly processed ingredients and huge portions aren’t doing you any good, but, what’s more, new findings reveal they also kill beneficial gut bacteria which protect against obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, inflammatory bowel conditions and autism.
According to recent research into the links between gut bacteria and health led by genetic epidemiology professor Tim Spector of King’s College London, diets with low content of ingredients, most of which are highly processed, are toxic to these bacteria. Actually, more than a third of these can die out in a few days of beginning such a diet.
In addition, the discovery could also explain why some people gain weight while others don’t, despite eating approximately similar amounts of fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrates.
In one of the study experiments discussed in his upcoming book “The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat,” Spector asked his 23-year-old son, Tom, to spend 10 days on a diet that included nothing but McDonald’s chicken nuggets, fries, burgers and Coca-Cola. After the 10-day trial period, Tom lost about 40% of his beneficial gut flora or about 1,400 different types of bacterial species considering the fact that the human gut contains around 3,500 difference microbial species.
This problem is far more serious than simply indigestion or weight gain because many chronic diseases have more and more been attributed to this loss of microbial diversity.
For one thing, gut flora is vital for prevention of potentially harmful microbes and proper metabolic function. Digestive enzymes along with vitamins A and K, which are essential for the absorption of important minerals such as calcium and iron into the body, are produced by the stomach bacteria.
That’s why any disruptions of the beneficial gut flora may lead to a higher risk of developing conditions such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. There is even mounting evidence which links lower gut bacterial activity to autism.
What are the Risk Factors for Colon Cancer?
Colitis and inflammatory bowel disease can often lead to colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon and rectum, which is the third most common cancer in the United States. Although age and family history can significantly increase your colon cancer risk, there are also a number of other factors that contribute greatly to this disease:
- A diet high in red meats and processed meats
- Cooking meats at very high temperatures as this produces cancer-causing chemicals
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol use (more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women)
What Can Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, a vegetable-rich, high-fiber diet considerably reduces the risk “Diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.”
Following a proper, nutrient-rich and balanced diet is by far the most recommended method by doctors and nutritionist to prevent the onset of this disease, mostly because eating healthy has a positive effect on your microbiome.
In the words of Professor Spector, excluding fat and sugar is less vital to a healthy diet than ensuring the food is as diverse and natural as possible.
Professor Spector said: “Fifteen thousand years ago our ancestors regularly ingested around 150 ingredients in a week.
“Most people nowadays consume fewer than 20 separate food types and many, if not most, are artificially refined.
“Most processed food products come, depressingly, from just four ingredients: corn, soy, wheat or meat”.
He highly recommends Belgian Beer, garlic, coffee, leeks and celery as the ideal foods for promoting healthy gut flora.