In today's Times, Jenni Russell writes:
"Evidence is growing that the destruction of our gut bacteria by processed food is the real enemy.Somehow, it's always the mice which get the short straw.
"There are dozens of human and animal studies demonstrating how contemporary diets rich in processed food, transfats, artificial sweeteners, additives, corn, soya and wheat devastate the huge variety of good bacteria that live in our guts, and replace them with strains that create inflammation and weight gain.
"That switch in our eating habits took off in the 1980s, when we ditched butter, full-fat milk, eggs, red meat and three meals a day in favour of frequent snacks, sugary drinks, ready-made meals and low-fat, high-carbohydrate food. Instead of an internal garden we created an arid landscape filled with weeds."
"In a fascinating 2013 experiment by the genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector, from King’s College London, researchers took intestinal microbes from pairs of twins where one sister was obese and one lean, and transferred them into mice. All mice were fed the same food. Yet the mice given the “obese” bacteria grew fat. The mice with the lean sister’s bacteria stayed lean. Then, just to prove the point, the scientists gave the fat mice bacterial transplants from the lean ones — and the fat mice lost their excess weight.All roads lead to Dr Michael Mosley ...
"The clear implication of the research is that if we continue to eat a classic western diet then even if we reduce our calories we’ll fight to lose weight or keep it off. Our bacteria will act like a fifth column, simultaneously fattening us and sending us subversive chemical messages demanding more sugar or fat. The exciting element of the theory is that just as our microbiome was ravaged by dietary changes, so it’s probably in our power to rebuild it — and the changes can start in days."
"Dr Spector and other leading figures in this field say the solution is simple; replace processed food with the natural foods we used to eat, particularly spices, herbs, fermented foods and fibre-rich plants. Variety is the key to internal regeneration. We used to eat around 150 different foods; now many of us eat only 20, packaged in 50 ways.No thanks, I think I'll stick to natural yoghourt, sauerkraut and Camembert for my good bacteria.
"And if broccoli for breakfast, nuts and sauerkraut for lunch and green smoothies for snacks is too much to bear, there’s always the cheat’s option. Sidle up to the skinniest person you know and find out what it might take for them to give away their good bacteria."