Science

Poor diet in childhood may have lasting effects on gut microbiome

Poor diet in childhood may hav...
A new study is claimed to be one of the first exploring the lasting effects of a poor diet on the microbiome at an early age
A new study is claimed to be one of the first exploring the lasting effects of a poor diet on the microbiome at an early age
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A new study is claimed to be one of the first exploring the lasting effects of a poor diet on the microbiome at an early age
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A new study is claimed to be one of the first exploring the lasting effects of a poor diet on the microbiome at an early age

We know that a poor diet can negatively impact the human body in all kinds of ways, and lately we're seeing a lot of research into how it can alter the gut microbiome. A team from University of California, Riverside (UCR) has explored the lingering effects of of a poor diet, demonstrating how unhealthy eating while young decreases the diversity of bacteria in the guts of mice over the longer term, even after a switch to a healthy diet.

The researchers set out to explore how shifts in the bacterial diversity of our gut microbiome during critical development periods in our lives can have long-lasting effects. To do so, the team enlisted juvenile mice which were split into four different groups. Half were placed on Western-style, high-fat, high-sugar diets, while the other half were placed on a standard healthy diet. Half of both of those groups were given access to a running wheel for exercise.

After three weeks, all of the rodents were then placed on a standard diet and given no exercise, and after 14 weeks, the scientists collected fecal samples from the mice and analyzed the diversity of their gut bacteria. They found that diversity was significantly reduced in those fed the Western diet during early age, as were bacterial species involved in carbohydrate metabolism.

The team’s investigations also revealed that physical activity appeared to play a role in the diversity of gut bacteria, showing that it was higher in the mice on a standard diet that had engaged in exercise. In the mice on the high-fat diet, however, the diversity was decreased whether or not that they had exercised.

Therefore, the authors conclude that diet during early life had more long-lasting effects on the microbiome than exercise. While the study was carried out on mice, the timeframes used by the researchers were made to mimic a key developmental period in humans.

“We studied mice, but the effect we observed is equivalent to kids having a Western diet, high in fat and sugar and their gut microbiome still being affected up to six years after puberty,” explained UCR evolutionary physiologist Theodore Garland.

Studies into the gut microbiome, what affects its diversity and how it can influence human health is a burgeoning area of research, and one that is turning up many fascinating insights. This includes how diet can impact the diversity of the gut microbiome and in turn things like heart disease and aging, but also how it is linked to neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and depression.

The authors of this new study describe it as one of the first demonstrating how juvenile diets can have long-lasting effects on the adult microbiome, “after a substantial washout period.” They hope to build on these findings by carrying out more experiments where samples are taken at more points in time, to better track when the alterations to the microbiome take shape and how they might stick around even later in life.

The research was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Source: University of California, Riverside

6 comments
6 comments
buzzclick
There is no doubt in my mind that the conditions early in life affect us all alter on, and as a lover of plants, I have to say that this applies equally to our green friends, which makes sense. Nurture the young and they will have a better fighting chance of survival. To subject them to crappy conditions means a lifetime of struggle. Of course, this also applies to animals.
BlueOak
Nice story about mice. Will become a lot more interesting when it is proven in humans.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The experiment appears neutral to gluten, a major player. If the sugar component is wheat, the real culprit may be gluten.
Bill S.
As a child I ate just about all the junk you show in the picture. Spent an entire life eating foods I enjoyed instead of all the "healthy" food that I was suppose to be ingesting. I am now 70 years old, I have NEVER been to a doctor, never stepped foot into a hospital (and won't ever do that), I feel great, I have had the flu twice in my life, but other than that..... Everyday I get up I still feel as if I was 30. I have a Masters degree in Health Science and do understand that diet plays an important part in longevity , but seriously, who really wants to live to be a hundred years old spending your day changing diapers on yourself and drooling, all the while watching re-runs of Matlock. Must go, my Harley is all warmed up.
wolf0579
I know people that eat primarily processed food diet, fast food, boxed stuff, etc. There is an entire two or three generations alaive in the US who DON'T KNOW HOW TO COOK. People that had parent(s) who, because they divorced the fathers of their children, then did not have enough time to cook nutritious meals for their kids, and fed them entirely of fast foods. This is a disgrace. There is a huge opportunity to teach people how to shop and how to cook, but the up and coming businesses out there just want to sell them more processed junk foods.

And "Bill S" is a liar.
Pardon Me
I have issues with the article and the research. "Western style, high fat, high sugar diets" does little to identify which part of the diet is the issue. The author then later mentions only high fat, leaving out high sugar. Sugar(carbs) is the number one problem in dealing with the gut biome. Fat is not.