Eating fat-rich foods as a child causes long-lasting changes in gut microbiome: Study

The gut microbiome helps hosts break down the food and produce chemicals needed for the breakdown.

A new study has found that eating habits followed in childhood have a more long-lasting effect on adult life than previously thought. If a person ate food rich in fat and sugar while they were young, their gut microbiome is going to change for life. The study was conducted by researchers from UC Riverside and the results were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The researchers conducted the experiment on mice but the animals’ behaviour can be expected to be similar to that of a human child. It was found that if a kid followed a certain diet or consumed certain antibiotics along with less or no exercise during their critical developmental periods, then the microbes in their gut can change and this change can be lifelong.

The researchers saw the mice that were fed food high in fat and sugar during their juvenility displayed the effects of their changed gut microbiome even six years after puberty. There was a significant decrease seen in both the total number and diversity of gut bacteria in these mature mice. Microbiome refers to all the microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses that live on and inside a human or animal. These help hosts break down the food and produce chemicals needed for the breakdown. These microbes are also important in stimulating the immune system.

Junk fatty foods unhealthy fries ketchup Diet Miguel Andrade Unsplash

Hence, if intake of food rich in fat and sugar can permanently cause damage to the microbiome of human beings, then even if a person switches to healthy eating habits later on in their life, the body could become susceptible to diseases.

The team carried out their research on four groups of mice. One group was fed the so-called ‘healthy’ diet, another group was fed the less healthy so-called ‘Western’ diet. The third group was given access to a running wheel for exercise, and the fourth group was without it.

UCR evolutionary physiologist Theodore Garland, who was part of the study, said: “You are not only what you eat, but what you ate as a child!”

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