The Western diet is typically bashed for being high in fat, processed foods, and an unhealthy way of eating as it can contribute to obesity. But there may be an underlying benefit to eating in this way.
Researchers at Midwestern University studied the Western diet closely and discovered that it can promote bacterial growth in the small intestine, which increases fat digestion and absorption. The goal of the study was to determine if microbes were necessary for digestion and fat absorption and to better understand which microbes were required for this. Furthermore, they wanted to look at diet-induced microbes and their role in digestion and fat absorption.
The study, conducted on mice, used a slew of complicated experiments to reveal that mice who were germ-free (GF) are protected from diet-induced obesity and cannot absorb dietary fat compared to conventionally raised mice. When the GF mice are given small intestine microbiota from high-fat conditions, they are able to absorb fat.
The findings suggest that microbes help produce and secrete digestive enzymes which allows for the breakdown of dietary fat and its absorption quickly through high-fat foods.
Many similar studies like this have occurred with the large intestine but this is the first to examine the small intestine.
Lead researcher Kristina Martinez-Guryn explained, “I would say the most important takeaway overall is the concept that what we eat–our diet on a daily basis–has a profound impact on the abundance and the type of bacteria we harbor in our gut. These microbes directly influence our metabolism and our propensity to gain weight on certain diets.”
“Our results suggest that we can use pre- or probiotics or even develop post-biotics (bacterial-derived compounds or metabolites) to enhance nutrient uptake for people with malabsorption disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, or alternatively, we could test novel ways to decrease obesity,” Dr. Martinez-Guryn concluded.
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