New research shows processed meals kill off the bugs that keep you thin
- Fast food so toxic to gut bacteria can quickly kill hundreds of the species
- Healthy diets not about excluding things such as fat or sugar, but variety
- Research found in a new book by scientist Tim Spector, ‘The Diet Myth’
- For study, son dieted solely on McDonald’s to show how it kills gut species
The new research has been uncovered by Tim Spector (pictured), in his new book ‘The Diet Myth’
Junk food kills vital bacteria that help us stay thin, according to a leading researcher.
Professor Tim Spector believes this partly explains our rising obesity levels.
He also claims that a diet which encourages the growth of a range of bacteria could be just as effective for weight loss as cutting back on fat and sugar.
This includes celery, garlic, unpasteurised cheese, small portions of dark chocolate and, bizarrely, Belgian beer.
Only last week experts from the World Health Organisation warned that as many as two-thirds of British women and three-quarters of men would be obese or overweight by 2030.
Professor Spector of King’s College London, who specialises in genetic epidemiology, says one reason obesity levels have increased is because the range of bacteria in our guts has reduced.
He estimates that the range in our small intestines has reduced in the past 50 years because we now eat more processed food.
In an unusual experiment, his 23-year-old son Tom agreed to spend ten days on a diet solely consisting of McDonald’s burgers, chicken nuggets, chips and Coke.
Scientists took samples from his gut before and afterwards to estimate the number of different species of bacteria.
They found that initially, there were 3,500 species but over the course of the ten days this dropped by 1,300 species.
As part of the study for the book, Mr Spector’s son Tom agreed to spend 10 days eating only McDonald’s
Tom also carried out the experiment as part of his university dissertation – he gained four pounds while he snacked on the junk food and it killed 1,300 of his gut species
Professor Spector said: ‘Microbes get a bad press, but only a few of the millions of species are harmful and many are crucial to our health.
‘Microbes (bacteria) are not only essential to how we digest food; they control the calories we absorb and provide vital enzymes and vitamins.
‘It is clear that the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbes and the better your health at any age.’
10 DIETING MISCONCEPTIONS
Multivitamins and supplements are of no benefit and may do harm.
There is considerable evidence that eating lots of fatty cheese or yoghurt can improve health and weight.
Sweeteners in ‘diet’ fizzy drinks have adverse effects on our metabolism and microbes.
The effects of hangovers can be lessened by changing your gut microbes.
Foods advertised as ‘low-fat’ are actually making us fatter.
Because of changes in our diet and the use of antibiotics the diversity of microbes in our bodies is 30 per cent lower than fifty years ago.
Most probiotics in yoghurt don’t work well in humans.
Belgian beer, garlic, coffee and celery are perfect foods to increase gut microbes.
When two people are put on the same diet, the results are often very different because of their microbes and genes.
Increasing diversity of our diet will increase our microbes, our health, happiness and lifespan.
Professor Spector also believes that a diet which increases the range of species of bacteria in the gut is as important as cutting back on fat and sugar.
He said that 15,000 years ago our ancestors regularly ate around 150 different ingredients a week and this encouraged the growth of many different types of bacteria.
Nowadays most people eat fewer than 20 different food types, and even less if we mainly eat processed food.
Professor Spector said the majority of processed food – including ready meals or fast food – comes from just four ingredients, corn, soy, wheat or meat.
The promotion of restrictive diets that depend on just a few ingredients will inevitably lead to more reduction in microbe diversity and to ill health, he said.
The scientist – who is about to publish a book called The Diet Myth – has also found that Belgian beer, garlic, coffee, leeks, celery and unpasteurised cheese all encourage the growth of healthy bacteria.
Dark chocolate may also be beneficial as it contains chemicals called polyphenols which the bacteria feed off, and thrive.
Belgian lambic beer, which comes from the south-west of the country, is made using naturally occurring bacteria.
The spontaneous fermentation of this bacteria with the yeast gives it a very different taste to conventional beers and ales which contain very few bacteria.
Around 60 per cent of adults in Britain are too fat including one in four who are obese and likely to be harming their health.
The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2030, this will increase to 64 per cent of women and 74 per cent of men.
The new research has been uncovered by Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, in his upcoming book ‘The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat’