A study conducted by researchers from Stanford University and published on the journal Nature showed that the increasing practice of low fiber diet in society is contributing to the loss of essential bacteria in the human gut, reported Telegraph on Wednesday.
According to the researchers, gut-friendly bacteria used to thrive in the intestines of humans when they were hunter-gatherers, contributing to the health as immune system regulators for millions of years, but some of them have gradually disappeared that not even opting for a healthier diet could bring them back.
The trillions of bacteria in our gut feed mostly on fiber, and it is unfortunate that most westernized communities nowadays consume only a tenth of the hunter-gather societies' fiber intake. The lesser the fiber intake, the faster these bacteria disappear from our systems, which most scientists point to as the cause for the prevalence of food intolerances and allergies.
According to The Atlantic on Wednesday, the researchers began the study with mice that were raised in sterile bubbles then a similar collection of gut bacteria in humans were introduced in theirs. These mice were then given a high-fiber diet, before switching half of the mice's diet to a low-fiber one for seven weeks.
They have found that change in fiber intake caused a significant change in the gut environment. The mice that fed on low-fiber diet were observed to have a drop in number in 60 percent of their local microbe species, and some remained low in count even after switching to high-fiber meals once again.
"The extremely low-fiber intake in industrialized countries has occurred relatively recently," pointed Dr. Justin Sonnenburg, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Is it possible that over the next few generations we'll lose even more species in our gut? And what will the ramifications be for our health?"
"We would have difficulty living without them," he added. "They fend off pathogens, train our immune systems and even guide the development of our tissues.
"Simple tweaks in our cultural practices, for example, not washing our hands after gardening or petting our dogs could be a step in the right direction," Sonnenburg suggested.