hamburgerA new study shows that eating junk food actually kills off good bacteria in your stomach that is responsible in keeping you not only slim, but also protects you from heart disease and cancer.

Tim Spector, a British genetic epidemiology professor at King’s College in London found that a diet of highly processed food, such as junk food and fast food, actually makes the stomach toxic to good bacteria that help in burning down calories. These bacteria die off within days of starting such a limited diet, the study claims.

Spector’s 23-year old was instrumental in the research, agreeing to spend roughly ten days eating McDonald’s burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets with Coca-Cola as the main drink.

“Before I started my father’s fast food diet, there were about 3,500 bacterial species in my gut, dominated by a type called firmicutes,” Spector’s son said.

“Once on the diet, I rapidly lost 1,300 species of bacteria and my gut was dominated by a different group call bacteroidetes. The implication is that the McDonald’s diet killed 1,300 of my gut species.”

Good vs. Bad Bacteria

Most people think of microbes and bacteria as all harmful, but only a few are actually detrimental while majority are actually crucial to one’s health. The phyla of bacteria known as firmicutes are stomach flora that is instrumental in deterring obesity and the resorption of energy. They also help produce digestive enzymes that help break down food easier, along with vitamins A and K, which help the body absorb tougher minerals like iron and calcium.

On the other hand, almost all bacteroidetes are pathogenic in nature, meaning they are harmful to human health. An imbalance of bacteria in a person’s stomach increases a person’s chance of developing debilitating conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases and colitis. There is even evidence that links lower gut bacterial to autism.

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The findings help explain why some people put on more weight than others, even though they may consume the same amounts of protein and carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. It also reinforces the idea that weight problems is more complex and not just about how much a person eats.

Professor Spector further explained that ‘What is emerging is that the changes in our gut microbe community, or microbiome, are likely to be responsible for much of our obesity epidemic and consequences like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.’

He also claims that the diversity of gut microbes has decreased over the last century due to the popularity of processed food such as junk food and fast food. Eating complete meals and avoiding processed foods is important to maintain a healthy body and lessen health risks.

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