‘You are what you ate as a child’; Childhood diet has lifelong impact, says study
Even if you later learn to eat healthier, junk food alters your microbiome for life
Eating fast food or junk foods as a child can alter your microbiome for life, even if you later learn to eat healthier, a new study suggests.
Energy giving junk food contain a lot of sugar, salt and fat, but low in nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The study in mice by UC Riverside researchers is one of the first to show a significant decrease in the total number and diversity of gut bacteria in mature mice fed an unhealthy diet as juveniles.
“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.
The microbiome refers to all the bacteria as well as fungi, parasites, and viruses that live on and inside a human or animal. Most of these microorganisms are found in the intestines, and most of them are helpful, stimulating the immune system, breaking down food and helping synthesize key vitamins.
In a healthy body, there is a balance of pathogenic and beneficial organisms. However, if the balance is disturbed, either through the use of antibiotics, illness, or unhealthy diet, the body could become susceptible to disease.
Garland’s team looked for impacts on the microbiome after dividing their mice into four groups: half fed the standard, ‘healthy’ diet, half fed the less healthy ‘Western’ diet, half with access to a running wheel for exercise, and half without.
The study has been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.