You really are what you eat: A balanced diet ensures a balanced gut

Studies and research over the years expound on the growing knowledge that diet and nutritional habits play an essential role in regulating the diversity of microbiota in the gut. The collection of microorganisms within the gut microbiome not only aid in digestion and gastrointestinal regulation but affect the anatomy and physiology of the entire body. A recent study reveals the impact of diets rich in fiber and those rich in fats and simple sugars on the evolution of gut bacteria and microbes. Diet variation may lead to a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, according to researchers.

Diverse Diet, Diverse Gut Microbiome

Researchers at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência performed three studies on mice to explore the response and adaptation of B. theta, a gut bacterium, in reaction to diets high in vegetables and fiber and those high in sugar and fat.

The group of mice that were fed the low-fiber diet displayed rapid mutations to the bacterium in the gut that resulted in breakdowns in the mucus of the gastrointestinal tract. While the other group of mice fed the high-fiber diet showed a modification in the gut bacterium that favored digestion and breakdown of fiber content rather than degrading the internal gastrointestinal system of the host. 

The study also examined another group of mice that ate the two test diets in an alternating, weekly pattern. Surprisingly, this eating pattern showed quick oscillation in the genetic function of B. theta in the gut, which led to the maintenance of a diverse composition of gut microbiota.

The study findings drive home the idea that diet plays a significant role in the development, upkeep, and function of microorganisms in the gut that affect the entire body and overall health. Researchers also conclude that diet variation may be a surprisingly significant mode of maintaining a diverse and rich gut microbiome.    

Permanent Effects of Diet

This study reiterates the idea of eating various food groups in moderation to maintain a healthy gut ecosystem. However, the impact may even go further concerning future health benefits. 

“The consequences of an unbalanced diet can be much more permanent than previously recognized because diet affects not only the composition of the microbiota but also leaves permanent genetic alterations in the gut microbes. Although not addressed in this study, our results indicate that these alterations can be transmitted to the next generations, thus having long-lasting consequences,” explains Karina Xavier in a statement. Xavier is a leader of the IGC group conducting this dietary research.

Eating patterns both learned and genetic in children can be inherited from parents. These indications show that maintaining an individual healthy gut microbiome may not be where benefits begin and end. With further research and implementation in this realm of gut health, future generations may benefit from healthier nutritional habits, a more diverse gut makeup, and greater overall wellbeing

This study is published in Cell Host & Microbe.

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