Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Knew? Gut Flora are Picky Eaters

With a wide range of probiotic supplements and fortified foods out there available for all consumers alike, one might be driven to think that they work the same way in everyone. These products are sold as a 'one size fits all' sort of deal, promising the same benefits to anyone who consumes them. But since we're all a bit different on the inside and our diets differ otherwise, it would seem logical that our own unique gut flora also behave a little bit differently. I guess nobody really thought to stop and look into this further until now, but it turns out that our gut flora are actually picky eaters.

According to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, published in Science, the gut flora profiles of high meat- and fat-eaters differ from those of individuals with veggie- and carb-rich diets. The implications of these differences aren't clearly understood just yet, but we do know that our gut flora are a key component to maintaining good health and a strong immune system. We also know that diets high in meat and fat are not particularly healthy while plant-based diets are.

There are strong links between diets high in fat and meat with many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and others, while plant-based diets have been shown to reduce one's risk of developing these conditions. It has also been found that healthy gut flora is associated with a lower incidence of developing a number of conditions such as obesity, IBDs like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, IBS and even colorectal cancer.

The researchers who worked on this current study believe there is a clear link here and that the role that a healthy gut flora plays in our health is understated and poorly understood. They think it is possible that certain profiles of gut flora cause our immune systems to attack the gut, causing specific diseases and conditions, including obesity and Crohn's disease.

Since we have clear evidence of the benefits of a plant-based diet on our health, and now further associations between this diet and a healthy gut flora, we should all aim to eat meat a little bit less. A simple way to start is to practice meatless Mondays. People all over the world are following this trend, offering support, recipes and momentum to those looking to adopt a more plant-based diet. Give it a try and who knows how great you (and your gut) could feel!